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School District Must Replace Bridge at New Albany School

Floodwaters and surface runoff this summer appear to have put an end to the creek bridge on the property of the New Albany Elementary School.

"We have to replace it," Acting Superintendent Warner Stark told the Wyalusing Area School Board Monday night. "We'd like to get this done before school starts."

But there is not much time to do all of this with classes starting in less than a month, and the administration is working with Hawk Engineering to get some bids for replacing the span. If they can't get that job done before the start of school, it means the buses will not be allowed to cross the bridge and deposit students at the front of the building.

With some maintenance work and stabilization efforts, Stark says that cars would be allowed to cross the bridge, but allowing buses with students on board to do so is out of the question.

In the meantime, Elementary Principal Joe Darrow has been given the task of developing contingency plans for offloading and on-loading students onto business in the even the bridge hasn't been replaced by opening day. There are apparently locations on the perimeter of the school property where buses can discharge and pick up students without crossing the bridge.

"This has been a problem for years," says Stark, who came out of retirement this summer (see page one story) to give the school board time to hire a replacement for Michael Mahon, who recently resigned to take a position with the Abington Heights School District.

In other school board business, aside from major personnel moves including the hiring of Stark, the board appeared to give its assurances that it is still committed to a boys' soccer program. Because of problems securing coaching personnel in time to get a program in place for the coming school year, soccer will not be among the high school's interscholastic sports offerings. However, parent, Larry Roberts, asked for assurances from the board Monday night that they were still committed to the program and that a full effort will be made to get it on the fall schedule for the 2005-06 school year.

"We're still on course," Bob Hanzok assured Roberts on the board's behalf. The board unanimously approved boys' soccer as an interscholastic sport last summer after rejecting it several times in the past.

In other board discussion, Stark noted that there appears to be a surprising change in enrollment trends for the district, which have been steadily dropping since peaking in the mid-1970's.

"This year is probably the highest it has been in a long time," said Stark, who noted that he was talking about comparison in percentages with previous years and not total numbers.

Although no current numbers were given in terms of recent enrollment, the most recent numbers cited by Standard & Poors for the Wyalusing Area School District show about 1,500 students enrolled in the school district, with almost a third—or about 33 percent—classified as economically disadvantaged. The average spending per student is about $7,835, which is about $450 less than the average district in Pennsylvania spends per student. Again, these figures come from Standard & Poors' analyses and are about a year old.

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