Making Their Voices Heard

March 9, 2023

RUSSELL, Pa. – More than 30 county residents took the opportunity to voice their concerns about the Warren County School District’s Master Facilities Plan during a public engagement session at Central Office Wednesday.

Though almost every speaker presented unique, individual concerns, there were several themes that carried through multiple comments. A desire for more data, concern over transportation time, schools are an integral part of their community, a belief that small schools provide better education/socialization, and a lack of trust/concerns with transparency regarding the school board were the primary focus of many speakers.

“I don’t envy the administration (and) board members the task at hand,” Tom Holden said. “It’s about community. If we don’t use our communities, this can’t work. We’ve got to find a way to stop this vicious cycle.”

See all the public comments here:

“I personally am on track to become valedictorian and I’m currently the vice president of my class,” Sheffield junior Payton Bailey said. “Being sent to a larger school will not just take those opportunities away from me, but it would also take similar opportunities away from countless other students. I feel that if this is seriously being considered, you need to formally interview us students, and our responses need to be taken seriously. Moving to a larger school will negatively impact students socially, mentally, academically, financially, and physically.”

Most of the transportation comments focused on two key aspects, length of time on a bus and cost.

“Before any options can truly be explored, I would think the district would consider looking at transportation costs,” Kelly Sullivan said. “This was brought up at the last board meeting and no one has even considered looking at the transportation costs. These plans should be made available to the public and also talking to different bus companies should be on your agenda.”

Though board members didn’t respond to each individual comment, Mary Passinger requested later in the meeting that district administration map out potential bus routes for students in the farthest corners of the district and how long those students would be on a bus to and from school.

Some speakers also expressed concern over how changing schools would impact the health and well-being of students.

“I’m concerned about students in general and their health and well-being,” Kari Smith said. “This is not a small decision to make, this will impact these children for the rest of their lives.”

Several residents associated with the “2 Schools, 1 Fight” group urged the board to consider the proposal being put forth on the group’s website. That proposal, they said, would put the fate of each individual attendance area’s schools in the hands of the residents who live in that area. It would also help alleviate the deep-seated distrust many in the “outlying” attendance areas have toward the district.

“One benefit of this plan would be healing of distrust, which has been a cancer eating away at the district since its formation,” Mark Lindberg wrote in an email.

The 2 Schools, 1 Fight plan, along with other suggestions for possible reconfiguration, were added to the list of options created through a survey with board members, district administration, and district principals.

The board will begin trimming that list of options to a more workable number potentially as early as Monday’s regular board meeting.

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