Connellsville Area board approves sale of closed school to Highlands Hospital |
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The closed Zachariah Connell Elementary School has been sold to Highlands Hospital in Connellsville.

Connellsville Area School Board voted Wednesday night to sell the closed Zachariah Connell Elementary School building and adjacent lot to Highlands Hospital.

The Connellsville hospital was the highest responsible bidder at $207,000. Board members Paul Means and Fran Mongell abstained from voting, all others voted yes.

Highlands Hospital did not disclose to the school district in what capacity it will use the building.

The other bidder was James Stambaugh, with a bid of $200,500.

In related business, the board voted unanimously to use the proceeds from the sale of the building toward technology and software upgrades in the district.

The board also unanimously voted to urge Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly to work together to come up with a compromise to end the impasse preventing the 2015-16 budget from being approved.

Connellsville, like many school districts in the state, is forecasting going into crisis mode around the holidays if a budget is not passed and money is not coming in from the state.

Resident Bryan Kisiel asked the board whether there is a plan in place if the impasse continues through the holidays.

Chris Stern, the district’s solicitor, said, generally speaking, the board has been looking at all matters with legal avenues and has been discussing with other school district boards options including combining resources.

“But it’s too early to tell,” Stern said.

Kisiel asked the board whether members would come up with a strategic plan to address declining enrollment and the district’s finances, since the district hasn’t had a strategic plan in 22 months.

In other business, the board:

• Voted to approve the district administration to submit application materials for the Child and Adult Care Food Program with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The program will provide free meals for students involved in after-school programs.

District Business Manager Phil Martell said the district is in the process of reviewing the program, but it would be something of a second phase of the free lunch program the board passed in August.

• Heard from parent Teresa Snyder, who praised Clifford N. Pritts Elementary School Principal David McDonald for taking time out of his schedule to attend student functions and create a positive rapport with the students at the school.

• Heard from board member Kevin Lape, who responded to comments made about the board in recent newspaper articles concerning moving of the Ten Commandments monument from Connellsville Area Junior High School in which Gary Colatch, a member of the Thou Shall Not Move organization, referred to the board’s action as “cowardly.”

“He (doesn’t) know me or he wouldn’t call me a coward,” Lape said, adding the board did the best thing it could do and it was done in good faith.

• Voted to move the November meeting, which was originally scheduled on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) to Nov. 10, as a work session and voting meeting.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or [email protected].

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