Four school districts in Cumberland County will be grappling with major transition woes in 2018.
Carlisle and South Middleton school districts are both on the hunt for superintendents to replace top executives that retired last summer.
Both school boards will be pressed to make decisions on the future leadership and direction of their district before the fiscal year ends on June 30.
Meanwhile, Cumberland Valley and Mechanicsburg school districts are trying to balance money, space and time with the need to accommodate surges in enrollment and changes in educational programming.
Their school boards made decisions in recent years that will start to have a decisive effect in 2018. Local families will experience the flux in new school construction, building renovations and the redistricting of attendance areas.
The school board last summer appointed Christina Spielbauer as acting superintendent through the 2017-18 year. She was the assistant superintendent under John Friend, who stepped down last June.
The board in September approved an updated job description for superintendent as the first step in the process to find a permanent replacement for Friend. It was the first review of the job duties, qualifications and expectations since the board promoted Friend from assistant superintendent in March 2010.
At last word, Carlisle school board members planned to discuss the search in executive session to arrive at a consensus on the top four to five priorities for a new superintendent. The plan is to outline a process from there.
This school board in early November reopened its search for a superintendent after it was unable to reach an agreement with an unnamed candidate for the position. Since then, the board has retained Templeton Advantage of Newport to conduct an expanded nationwide search. Earlier, the Perry County firm had conducted an expedited search that focused mostly on Pennsylvania.
“We have once again reviewed the job posting and begun to layout the timeline for the process,” the board-as-a-whole announced in a Dec. 11 website posting. Three of the nine board members are new to the board, having been elected in early November and sworn into office in early December. They have been briefed on the particulars of the search.
The board is planning to schedule a stakeholders meeting in January where the public could ask questions and offer input on the strengths and weaknesses of South Middleton School District, board President Randy Varner said in late December. “We will take all of that into account as we move forward with the search.” There will be separate focus group meetings with faculty, staff and administrators.
Since 2010, Cumberland Valley School District has seen a sharp increase in enrollment that went beyond statistical projections and continues to the present-day. In early August 2017, the administration reported that 5.9 percent of the incoming 9,171 students for 2017-18 were new to the district, and that figure did not include the kindergarten.
Part of this growth surge will be addressed in August when Winding Creek Elementary School is scheduled to open on a new 120-acre campus on 120 acres at Lambs Gap and Bali Hai roads in Hampden and Silver Spring townships. This campus also includes Mountain View Middle School, which is scheduled to open in March 2019.
In November 2015, the school board accepted new attendance boundaries implemented in two phases. The first phase took place in 2017-18 and involved 81 students from Silver Spring Elementary School being moved to Monroe Elementary School.
The second phase will take place in the 2018-19 and would involve moving students from Silver Spring, Green Ridge, Hampden, Middlesex, Monroe, Shaull and Sporting Hills elementary schools and the existing middle schools. A portion of these students will be redistributed to the new 850-student capacity Winding Creek school and the new 1,450-student capacity Mountain View school.
In addition, Cumberland Valley School District could build into its 2018-19 budget money for a feasibility study to come up with options on how to address its expanding enrollment.
In June 2015, the Mechanicsburg Area School District authorized a feasibility study in response to growth in its enrollment, which numbered 4,023 students in 2017-18 — a jump of nearly 170 students since 2015-16.
The board then formed an 18-member committee of principals, teachers, administrators, parents and school board members to review the recommendations in the study and report back on the findings. The result was a number of board actions take in 2017 that will spill over into much of 2018.
The changes will begin early in the New Year when the board is expected to approve contractor bids for a $17 million expansion of the Kindergarten Academy, which needs renovations and an additional classroom wing. The second floor over the new wing will serve as the district’s new administration office. Construction could begin in mid-March with occupancy expected in fall 2019.
In mid-November 2017, the board approved new attendance areas for 2018-19 that will affect students in the elementary grades. This was done as part of a strategy to expand and renovate all district buildings over the next five years to accommodate increasing enrollment and changing educational and activity needs.
Work could begin in February on a plan to convert Elmwood Elementary School from a one-through-five facility into the district center for grades four and five. The district’s remaining elementary schools — Broad Street, Northside, Shepherdstown and Upper Allen — will switch from their current configurations of grades 1-5 to accommodate grades 1-3 in 2018-19.