Shared services could be a better option than Exeter-Antietam merger

A full merger is not the only option for Antietam and Exeter schools, was the message the Exeter Township Board of School Directors sent to the community during their workshop meeting held Tuesday, April 8. Board members took the opportunity to discuss their individual views on the Exeter-Antietam merger, after being presented the budgetary speculations to a merged district.

Both the Antietam and Exeter boards, as well as the community, were shown a breakdown of the expenditures and revenues of a combined district at a March 26 meeting.

James Brady was disturbed that public jumped to the conclusion that a full merger was the only option.

With other options of sharing services, regionalizing the two school districts, or do nothing, Brady would also like to see the districts continue to work together as a full merger would be “a very rapid move.”

“Every parent wants the best for their child at the end of the day,” Brady said. “The [Exeter] community is very in favor of keeping status quo.”

Offering Exeter courses for Antietam students would be one way the districts could work together in sharing services, as Antietam is limited with their population. Exeter and Antietam already participate together on sports teams but would look at further options. David Bender addressed some concerns that were presented at the budget discussion meeting March 26.

One option with the merger was to close the Jacksonwald Elementary School. Bender stated there may be other options, which could include keeping Jacksonwald open and close Antietam Mt. Penn Elementary Center.

“I will not sit here and shove [the merger] down the throats of our community,” Russell Diesinger stated. Diesinger was a supporter of the merger, but due to the resistance from the community, has changed his tune.

“I’d like to see more shared services without putting the communities against one another,” he said. Diesinger was not alone in his views, as many of the board members seem to lean more towards sharing services than a district merger.

“I don’t know if it’s the right time for a full merger,” James Brady said. Brady also supports continuing to work with the Antietam district.

Joseph Staub stated he cannot support the merger at this time as the merge would cause disruption to the students with moving and closing schools, and result in a job loss for the community. With future funding uncertainty, Staub would like the districts to look at continuing to share services.

Residents came out once again show their support for keeping the school districts as two separate entities. Parents teachers students and taxpayers all spoke with a strong opposition to a full merger, but were overall supportive of offering shared services.

The next Exeter School Board Voting meeting will be held 7 p.m. April 15 in the Junior High auditorium.

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.