School hearing slated
Citizens group, district at odds over Laurel Valley closingGREENSBURG — A Westmoreland County judge has scheduled a hearing June 22 on the preliminary objections the Ligonier Valley School District has filed in response to a lawsuit by a citizens group seeking an injunction to block the closure of the Laurel Valley Middle-High School near New Florence.
Dennis Rafferty, school district solicitor, filed the objections Tuesday at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.
On May 10, the citizens groups, Save Our Rams Education, filed a lawsuit that asks a judge to overturn the board’s April 19 decision to close the school.
Rafferty said the hearing on the objections was scheduled for 2:45 p.m. before Judge Gary P. Caruso.
If the case is not settled then, the judge scheduled Aug. 2 and 3 as the dates for the hearing on the injunction, he said.
Rafferty said he will be assisted at the court proceedings by the Pittsburgh law firm of Anderson and Price, whose services were obtained through the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
The citizens group is being represented by Gary J. Matta, a Pittsburgh lawyer.
Rafferty said one of the preliminary objections is that the district should not be prevented from closing the school.
Another objection is that in addition to the school district, the lawsuit
names all board members who voted
to close the school and the superintendent.
“We’re contending that they should not be named in the suit because they have immunity under Pennsylvania law,” Rafferty said.
No other points are being addressed specifically, he said.
One of the points being raised by the citizens group in the lawsuit is that students will be forced to undergo long and arduous bus trips over dangerous roadways.
Rafferty said that Pennsylvania law says that school boards can make decisions on closing schools so long as they take all relevant factors into consideration.
So even though there is no question that there will be long bus rides, the bus rides were
factors that were taken into
consideration by the board, he said.
“In spite of that, they still felt it was in the best interest of the district and taxpayers to close the school,” he said.
Another point raised in the lawsuit is that sending Laurel Valley middle and high school students to the Ligonier Valley Middle School and Ligonier Valley High School will create serious overcrowding.
Rafferty said the same analysis for the bus rides applies to each point the citizens group raises in the lawsuit.