Elizabethtown School District considering consolidation, closure of elementary school

Lancaster

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — An automated phone call and a month are all the notice Elizabethtown parents said they got before finding out their elementary school is on the chopping block.

Elizabethtown School District is considering a consolidation plan that would close Rheems Elementary.

“I live in a fairytale where I can walk down the street and people stop their lawn work to ask me how my kids are,” said Tiara Wolfe, Save Rheems Elementary organizer.

The castle of her fairy tale is Rheems Elementary.

“There’s magic in the hallways of Rheems,” Wolfe said.

That magic spell could be broken by a threat to close the school. Parents said they found out about the proposal early February through a robo call from the school.

The district had an established plan to renovate Rheems as part of a four-phase construction project for its primary schools.

“We want to know why we went from renovate to no money in a matter of what was really essentially overnight for everyone,” Wolfe said.

So, Wolfe went straight to the source. She met with district officials on Wednesday, who told her keeping Rheems open is costly.

“When we asked what we could do to find that money, [they said] you would have to find the one million dollars a year then to keep it open,” Wolfe said.

A $1 million deficit makes Wolfe feel like the closure is a done deal.

“Immediately, one of the moms who was with me says, ‘So your decision is made because you’ve known all along the money isn’t there to keep it open,”‘ Wolfe said of the meeting.

Closed doors could affect more than kids. Wolfe said the nearby quarry has tried to buy up property over the years, which lowers home values.

“I have blatantly asked, ‘Would you sell to the quarry if they were the highest bidder,’ and I cannot get an answer,” Wolfe said.

Like a teacher, she’ll look for answers during public comment on March 10 in front of the school board. A final vote could come on March 24.

“People need to come March 10 because March 24, they will walk into that room with a decision in their minds already,” Wolfe said.

The school district did not return ABC27’s calls or emails on Wednesday but spoke to us on Monday. A district spokesperson said the idea is preliminary and told Wolfe that if it is approved, the school wouldn’t close for two or three years.

Mill Road Elementary School could also close as part of the consolidation plan.

For more on the proposal, click here.

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