A steady decline in enrollment has led Bethlehem-Center School District to consider closing the district’s middle school.
The move would save the school district an estimated $475,000 a year in maintenance and utilities costs, said Superintendent Donald McFann.
Enrollment in the district has declined more than 25% since 2016, dropping from 1,341 students to about 1,000.
The school board discussed shuttering the middle school building at its Feb. 27 board meeting.
Under the proposal, sixth-graders would be moved into the elementary school and seventh- and eighth-graders would be housed in the high school, creating a new junior-senior high school.
McFann said the money the district saves on the cost of operating the middle school can be diverted to improving technology and programming at the other two buildings.
“It’s the right thing to do for this school district. It’s the right thing to do financially, and from my standpoint, the right thing to do academically and educationally,” said McFann. “It’s much more efficient to our taxpayers to have two buildings that we can fill up with technology. Putting kids first is the right thing to do.”
The middle school can house 500 students, but currently only 220 attend there.
“We have plenty of space (for students) at the other buildings. We can easily house sixth grade in the elementary school and easily put seventh-and eight-graders in the high school building,” said McFann.
McFann said consultants who toured the middle school said the building is safe, but is in need of significant repairs.
The proposed closure will not impact staffing or programs offered.
The school board likely will vote on closing the school, effective for the 2023-24 school year, at its May or June meeting.
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