Keep district schools intact
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.