Cumberland Valley School District’s town hall was tense. School officials discussed plans to handle its growing enrollment with potential developments on the McCormick Farm.
The superintendent insists buying the McCormick Farm is an affordable way to give kids the education they deserve.
“At that 10-year average, we’ll add 155 students every single year and our experience is that we’re adding it disproportionately to our elementary program,” said Superintendent Frederick Withum.
Storage areas have been transformed into classrooms. There have been 1,400 new students in the last five years.
But for months, many residents have been fighting the development of the land they say has been producing agriculture since 1745. They want the farm to be preserved.
“The residents are worried about the houses on that side of the farm,” said Scott Mehring of the Hogestown Heritage Committee.
“It’s a beautiful oasis in today’s rat world,” said Brad Westhafer, a Cumberland Valley alumni who lives along the farm. “I just think it’s absolutely wrong.”
Residents at Thursday’s discussion constantly questioned whether or not it’s legal that the district develops the land, citing a conservation easement.
The district says it understand its decision to build on the 108-acres can be upsetting. So, in addition to a new middle school, walking trails and gardens, planners want to partner with Natural Lands to create opportunities for the school’s agricultural program.
School officials say they want kids involved in the program to raise animals on-site. They also want to create an outdoor classroom barn and a pasture.
Cumberland County officials say the school filed a notice that it was taking the land in March.
The district says the plans are not set in stone, and that organizers are still accepting feedback.