When students leave Loyalhanna and New Derry elementary schools on the last day of school in June, it will most likely be the final time Derry Area School District students walk out the doors of the 1950s era buildings.
Come fall, all elementary students in the district will attend classes at Grandview Elementary School, the site of a major renovation.
"It's so exciting," said Derry Area Superintendent Roberta McCahan. "It's such a beautiful building. It's going to be so nice to have all of our K-to-five students in one building. It gives them access to much greater educational offerings."
The move will occur pending a school board vote in August to close both New Derry and Loyalhanna, which served as primary school buildings for kindergarten and first-grade students.
But the vote is just a formality, because plans have been discussed for the past two years, and a recent hearing on the closures drew no complaints, McCahan said.
The plan dates back to 2004, when Derry Area had three primary buildings, New Derry, Loyalhanna and Bradenville, housing kindergarten and first-grade students, and Grandview, which housed students in grades two through five.
At the time, a study led to a decision to close two primary centers and renovate Grandview, but the plan was never brought to fruition, McCahan said.
By the 2007-08 school year, enrollment declined, and there was room at Grandview for additional students. Bradenville, the smallest of the schools, was closed, and those kindergarten and first-grade students began attending Grandview.
About 2,350 students are enrolled in the district this year, down from 3,300 in the 1990s. Grandview is expecting 950 students next year in kindergarten to grade five. The school had more than 1,000 students in the 1990s in grades 2 through 5.
"Two years ago, when we revisited it, our numbers had declined even more than we had anticipated to the point where it made even more sense to house all of our K-to-five students in one building," McCahan said.
The $18 million renovation project came in about $3 million under original expectations. The state is reimbursing the district 20 percent of the construction costs, and the district raised taxes 6 mills over three years to fund the project, McCahan said.
Looking toward the future
Once the schools are closed, the district will experience a yearly savings of 1.7 mills in taxes. …