Anne Exton Scarlett of Kennett Square

@edhed:Pondering a new elementary school

@edbod:Some fascinating questions came to the fore with the announcement last week by Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Rudy Karkosak that plans are afoot for a new elementary school.

In many regards it was no surprise that the district needs a new building for many of its youngest pupils. There has been talk for years that the rapidly growing population would sooner rather than later necessitate a new building.

It's not a surprise either that Mary D. Lang Elementary School in the mi-ddle of Kennett Square will change, becoming a complete kindergarten center. That action will relieve the district of paying rent for a kindergarten facility in New Garden Township while, at the same time, transform a building whose demographics now vary considerably from its partner schools, Greenwood and New Garden.

The plan to make Lang into a kindergarten differs from talk on the street for several years that it would be a nice magnet high school for the arts or sciences. We still think a school for young artists and dancers would be a classy addition to the local school system, but for the sake of practicality congratulate the board for coming up with the kindergarten solution.

The questions are these, however:

Where will this building be and whom will it serve?

Since Mary D. Lang was constructed more than 30 years ago, the borough of Kennett Square has pretty much been built out to its capacity. Sure there are a few lots here and there, but for the most part, the real estate is packed in tight.

There is one site that could possibly contain a future elementary school in the future, however, and that's the NVF land, which is now for sale in the west end of the borough. No decisions have been made on what will go on those approximately 25 acres, but developers are eagerly bidding and hoping to make a profitable project out of it, according to reports.

The trouble is that the NVF land is contaminated by heavy metals. Geological experts at a recent borough council meeting admitted that definite remediation steps would have to be taken to clean up the land before it is fit for residential development.

After we ran a poll in the Paper asking how people would feel about living on the remediated land, the answers were overwhelmingly negative.

With that in mind, we doubt that the school board would look favorably on placing a school on that land, even if the owners would sell it for that purpose, and even if tests showed contamination were within Environmental Protection Agency safe levels.

That leaves the outlying areas of New Garden and Kennett townships, where there is a little more elbowroom. But where?

And how will the students who used to go to Lang be divided up?

At this point, Mary D. Lang by conservative estimates serves a 70 percent Latino population. Some non-Latino parents who live near Kennett Square have objected to having their kids at what is, in effect, a borough school, most of whose students speak Spanish.

Will the new school be a demographic copy of Mary D. Lang? Or will this shift in location create a more even distribution of Latino students among the three elementary schools?

The questions are not yet answered, but we are eager to hear how the board addresses them in the months ahead.

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