It's a question sure to get a response. Eyes start rolling, heads start shaking, some people laugh while groups of people will launch into a debate.

The question? - "What do you think the Hamburg Area School District should do about the elementary building project?"

In December 2004, school district officials made the decision to proceed with a 10-year plan that would see all five of the elementary schools replaced with three new buildings.

At the time, the projects were expected to cost a total of $39 million dollars, and include a tax increase of 1.75 mills to district property owners, or $175 for a home worth $100,000.

Nearly two years later, the Tilden Elementary building is closed, and the district still has no bids on the construction for the first phase of the building project. Yet, tax increases attributed to construction costs total 2.45 mills, or $245 for a $100,000 home.

Current estimates for constructing just the Hamburg East School are at $21 million. The original estimate was $15.9 million.

Last month, board members put a moratorium on phases two and three of the elementary construction project.

So, what should the district do? The answer doesn't come easy.

Janet Reber, Hamburg, wants to see smaller local schools.

"I hate to see all the schools out in the country," she said. "Then everyone has to be bussed."

Reber was once a student at the elementary school that is now the Hamburg Municipal Building, and recalled walking to school from her Fourth Street home.

Bob Doll, Strausstown, also prefers smaller school buildings, and thinks district officials should keep in mind the income levels of district residents.

He thinks building new schools can be a wasteful endeavor.

"I think school districts work to out-do each other," Doll said, calling some new schools "Taj Mahals."

Rev. Elna Stratton, Perry Township, is concerned with the historical value of the district's buildings.

"I think they should save it no matter what," she said.

Adam Minggia wants to know what will benefit area children the most.

"I'm a 'if it's not broke don't fix it' person," he said. "What's wrong with the first schools?"

He added that if new schools are better for the children, he's for them.

Chuck Denis of Hamburg is glad his children are now in the middle school, and don't have to deal with the shut-down of the Tilden school.

"I can't believe they were shocked at the construction costs," he said.

"What is the real need?" he asked, and answered the needs are to provide the best education for the children, including Internet access, and security.

"Let's fulfill the need," he said.

Tom Wagner, Hamburg, echoed everyone's sentiments when he said, "I don't think they should do anything until they find out how to pay for it."

Contact Penny at plhummel@berksmontnews.com.

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