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A solemn goodbye

MEGAN BADGER / WIRE PHOTO
The Wissahickon School Board voted to close the K-3 elementary school in Ambler at a Jan. 14 meeting, following a recommendation from the administration last June.

By Megan Badger

Wire Managing Editor

It’s the end of an era.

After much deliberation between community members and school officials, Mattison Avenue Elementary School in Ambler will close its doors in June.

At a Jan. 14 Wissahickon School Board meeting, members voted 6–3 to close the K-3 school of approximately 150 students.

According to board vice president Janice Singer, the administration recommended the closure of the school last June due to an “achievement gap.” The recommendation prompted two public hearings on the issue, which took place in October. Parents in favor of keeping the school open and the administration both argued their cases at the hearings.

After the hearings, the board took a mandatory 90-day cooling off period to come to a final decision. Under the sunshine laws, the board did not deliberate amongst themselves throughout that 90-day period, Singer said. However, during that period they continued to hold meetings and accept public comment from parents at meetings, in person and via email.

At the Jan. 14 meeting, nearly a dozen parents and community members spoke against the closure of the school.

Ambler resident Stan Moyer has two daughters who attended Mattison Avenue and shared a prepared speech at the meeting. Moyer recalled walking his daughters to school every day for seven years, and forming relationships with other parents and school staff members during that time.

“You’ve heard our voices. And as Rep. Todd Stevens said, ‘When 100 percent of your constituents want something, you really need to listen.’ Please listen,” Moyer said. “One hundred percent of your tax-paying, voting constituents want to keep Mattison Avenue; we want to spend our money to keep Mattison Avenue. Please show my children that democracy is alive and that democracy works. Please vote to keep Mattison Avenue School.”

After parents made their case, board members spoke on the issue and explained their reasoning behind their decisions.

“The administration’s recommendation to close Mattison Avenue Elementary provides for a consistent K-5 elementary program throughout the district, ensuring the same elementary experience for all our students,” Singer explained at the meeting.

Singer also cited “overall district declining enrollment and a poor financial outlook” at the meeting as motivation to close the school.

In the end, the board sided with the administration’s recommendation to close Mattison Avenue.

“We each had to come to our decision, which we shared with each other and the public the night of the vote,” Singer said in an email correspondence with the Midweek Wire. “The reasons varied board member to board member. Some agreed with the parents. I believe my job is to do what is in the best interest of the students.”

Board president Young Park did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Midweek Wire.

In a letter addressed to parents on Jan. 21, Superintendent of Schools Judith Clark outlined the sequence of events that will take place to transition students from Mattison Avenue Elementary to other schools in the district. Over the next two months the administration will be “working on the process of redistricting,” Clark said, and will present a plan for board approval in late April.

“Transition activities for students to their new school assignment will be offered throughout the months of May and June,” Clark wrote in the letter.

The Mattison Avenue students will attend one of the four other elementary schools in the district next year — Blue Bell Elementary, Lower Gwenedd Elementary or Stony Creek Elementary in Blue Bell.

For updated information about the transition process, visit www.wsdweb.org.

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