Superintendent Dr. Martin D. Handler addressed an auditorium filled with concerned residents of Brandywine Heights Area School District at the Evening with the Superintendent on Jan. 22.Handler, who has been with the district since August, said," To see a lot of people here, it's very clear to me that people care about this school district."

The future of the district's elementary schools and tax rate were important topics although the meeting was an open forum about any topic.

"Total enrollment is decreasing drastically," said Handler." We have more faculty and staff than we have students."

Currently the district has 160 seniors enrolled compared to 95 kindergarten students.

A lack of younger families moving into the area have been accredited to the decrease.

Handler said cyber charters is another concern.

According to Handler, 34 children are currently enrolled in a cyber charter.

"We pay for these students, but they don't come in the building. It is a drain on taxpayers' money," said Handler.

One possible way to deal with declining enrollment would be to close Longswamp and Rockland elementary schools, which house kindergarten to second grade students.

Echoes of parents' discontent similar to the Kutztown Elementary School District reconfiguration filled the auditorium.

Stephanie Kohler, of Mertztown, who has a child in Longswamp, is concerned about the elementary schools.

Kohler said that a lot of specific questions were avoided.

"To see this school district go downhill is awful," she said.

Kohler commended the quality of education her three children receive in the district.

"The teachers sit down with the students and they spend the time on the children who need it," she said.

Handler confirmed that a decision would not be made until all the information from the Architects Report comes out next month.

Despite the decreasing enrollment, test scores are the second highest in the state, according to Handler.

Handler expects the students to continue to excel, and he praised the district's choice to recently implement full-day kindergarten.

"These kids are so far ahead than if they were on a half day schedule," said Handler.

The milage rate was also a main concern. The current rate is 29 mils, which is higher than surrounding school districts and the second highest in the county.

According to the Berks County Tax Web site, in comparison, Kutztown Area School District is currently at 27 mils. Fleetwood Area School District is at 26 mils, and has proposed a 2.07 mil increase.

Antietam School District has the highest rate in the county at 31 mils.

Diane Fenstermacher, of Mertztown, whose first grade child attends Rockland, was satisfied with the way Handel conducted the meeting.

"It's too early to make any decisions and we can't make decisions without all the facts," she said of the situation of the elementary schools.

"Tonight was good for Dr. Handler to hear the concerns of the community," she said.

Handler thanked the audience for attending. He plans to hold another meeting in March once the Architects Report results are completed.

"It was a wonderful turn out," said Handler. "I hope people continue to take interest."

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