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State studying petition by Highspire parents to join Middletown Schools

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jan 6, 2015 4:52 AM
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(Harrisburg) -- A group of parents in the midstate are trying to join a different school district, and the state Department of Education has now received their certified petition.

The news means the process has hit the halfway point, but there's more work ahead if the Dauphin County municipality Highspire is going to join the Middletown Area School District.

The proposal now lies with the education secretary, who will decide if the current district is failing to serve its students. The secretary, who may change when Governor-elect Tom Wolf takes office, will look at state exam scores, SAT scores, and overall student performance to try to figure out if the current district is failing.

That decision could come in the next six to ten months.

But the state Board of Education would also have to hold public hearings and eventually sign off on the move.

"If the secretary says yes, there is educational merit, then the public hearing that's done at the state board level, after the independent school district is created, that's when you get in from hearing specifically from the school district, the members of the community," says Education Department spokesman Tim Eller.

He says even if the petition gets approved at every step, it could take two years.

"The length of the process is intentional, the lengthy part of the process is intentional to ensure that all sides are heard, that there's no rush to judgment. I mean shifting students from one municipality to another school district, it's a big feat to do."

The parents trying to jump ship say they're fleeing Highspire's underperforming schools.

But Middletown has said it doesn't want the additional students.

Public hearings could be at least one year away.

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