Rockland residents rallying support for their school building
The Derrick, 2/27/02 By SHEILA BOUGHNER-BLAIR

A special thank you goes out to The Derrick for allowing this story to be posted


Some Rockland residents are drumming up support for Rockland Elementary School in preparation for Cranberry School Board's final building meeting, but administrators are concerned the public may be misinformed.

At least one letter not authorized by administrators was sent home with Rockland Elementary students Monday, and signs and posters are sprouting up throughout the township.

One letter to parents of Rockland students, a copy of which was obtained by the newspaper, urges community members to turn out for the building meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in Rockland Elementary and makes several arguments for retaining the Rockland school.

As of noon Tuesday, administrators were still trying to discover how the letter was distributed.

Rockland Elementary Principal Nick Bodnar said he had spoken to Rockland teachers and staff and they did not know where the letter came from.

If the distribution occurred on school grounds it was in violation of district policy, Superintendent Richard Varrati said.

"When we put out information to the community, we want to make sure it's 100 percent accurate," he said.

He and Bodnar noted a number of inaccuracies contained in the letter.

"One assumption (in the letter) is that class sizes will jump," Varrati said. "That (large class sizes) has never been the intention or plan of this administration or board. As a rallying cry, that is based on false information."

The letter argues that consolidation would result in 30 to 35 students per classroom.

In a previous building meeting at Pinegrove Elementary, Varrati pointed out consolidation does not by definition lead to larger classes. Rather, it would give administrators greater ability to equalize class sizes.

Varrati also questioned the letter's assertion that under consolidation is a plan that includes a bus ride from Rockland that would take one hour and 40 minutes.

"There is nothing to show us that there are bus rides of that length," he said.

The letter writer "is making some assumptions and logical leaps. I'm not sure what they're basing it on," Bodnar said.

After outlining the presumed schedule of a Rockland student if the Rockland School were closed, the letter argues, "I'm sorry, but I cannot allow my child to be put through this. This is unhealthy for any child to go through. For those of you who have students that do not like going to school . . . hold on . . . the fun has only just begun! Forget about the students bringing home a decent report card. Forget about good grades . . . Cranberry doesn't care . . . they just want a new fancy building!"

A poster in circulation urges Rockland residents to "save our school." "The administration plans to close our small schools!! Please Help," it says.

But no such decision has been made, Varrati said.

"The point of the meeting on Thursday is to listen to their voice and gather some information," he said. "The board has not made any decision on what avenue to take. And that is a board decision. They (board members) are the ones who will have to make that final call (about the buildings). That is not the role of the administration."