Keep dis­trict schools in­tact

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION -

Long-time area res­i­dents still share sto­ries of their neigh­bor­hood pub­lic schools — how they walked to and from class, how they learned along­side their friends from down the street, how the school was as much a part of the com­mu­nity as the park nearby or the corner store.

Slowly through the years, the Ha­zle­ton area re­treated from that dy­namic, build­ing cen­tral schools miles from home and to which stu­dents had to be bussed. The trend cul­mi­nated 25 years ago when Ha­zle­ton, Free­land and West Ha­zle­ton lost their high schools to a mam­moth cen­tral high school in Ha­zle Town­ship that re­mains the cor­ner­stone of the Ha­zle­ton Area School Dis­trict’s sec­ondary school cam­pus.

Now, some school of­fi­cials look­ing to save money have sug­gested ex­tend­ing that same logic to the dis­trict’s mid­dle schools for sev­enth- and eighth-graders. Such a move would be a step back — but not far enough back to the time when neigh­bor­hood schools served so many so well.

Rather, it would be a re­turn to the days just be­fore and dur­ing the early part of the merger of the high schools, when cen­tral ju­nior highs D.A. Har­man and H.F. Gre­bey, and later at the so-called Cas­tle, pulled stu­dents from across the dis­trict’s 16 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to the heart of Ha­zle­ton.

Har­man and Gre­bey even­tu­ally met the wreck­ing ball in the name of progress, and ele­men­tary schools in com­mu­ni­ties across the dis­trict were mod­ern­ized and ex­panded to in­clude room for mid­dle-school­ers.

In a sense, that was a nod to the neigh­bor­hood schools of the more dis­tant past, es­pe­cially for peo­ple in places like Free­land and West Ha­zle­ton who for years feel they had lost their iden­tity.

To now change course again with cen­tral mid­dle schools would be to lose this sense of own­er­ship yet again.

For a tes­ta­ment to the im­por­tance of a com­mu­nity school, check out a ju­niorhigh bas­ket­ball game, where play­ers, cheer­lead­ers, class­mates, par­ents and teach­ers turn out in school col­ors and ex­hibit school pride. There is a one­ness among sup­port­ers of each school, but also among ev­ery­one as they ac­knowl­edge they also rep­re­sent Ha­zle­ton Area.

We should not try to put a price tag on such pos­i­tives.

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