Inside L-S: A district in transition

It's no secret that the landscape of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District is changing, but what effect does that have on the educational program at L-S?

We spoke with Mr. Edward Krasnai, leader of the guidance department at L-S High School, about the changes he has seen over his 11-year tenure with the District.

Mr. Edward Krasnai is a guidance
counselor at L-S
Krasnai stressed that one "has to look deeper at the numbers, at what's really happening" in order to understand what they mean, before conceding "that's not what we're geared to do."

One of the factors in the Pennsylvania Department of Education's school performance profiles is growth among historically underperforming students, which includes students with disabilities, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students, the latter two of which have grown at L-S in recent years.

As we have documented, the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch has increased by more than 500% since 2005, incidentally when Krasnai arrived.

"Not everything can be based off free and reduced lunches," he says, "but that's a massive switch."

Krasnai attributes it to more families living in multi-family housing, renting, or in homeless situations as opposed to the $300-400,000 homes built during the housing boom in the early 2000s.

Shelley Snow, a local realtor, says that this is a natural effect of the nationwide housing situation from several years ago.

"The housing bubble of the first half of the decade began to fade and eventually burst in 2007 and 2008. Homebuilders and developers had a substantial amount of inventory consisting of completed spec homes, spec homes under construction, lots ready for breaking ground, and other developments in the pipeline when the bubble burst," she says. "With the slow pace of sales combined with the substantially depressed pricing, developers did not need to continue to build their backlog. So they basically put the brakes on starting any new developments."

Consequently, there has been an increase in renting due to a lack of housing affordability.

"Property taxes continue to raise at an unacceptable pace," she says. "Hence more people enter into the rental market, including many who were previously homeowners."

Obviously, that creates different challenges within the student population. Lately, Krasnai has seen a lot of students moving in from neighboring school districts, particularly School District of Lancaster, as well as from around the country, including Montana, California, Florida, North Carolina, and the country of Jordan. Students who have not been at L-S throughout their schooling can be at a disadvantage with the different standards and pace in L-S courses, which can affect the standardized test scores that form the basis for the PDE Performance Profiles.

"Not everyone who moves in has the background to jump into the high expectations at L-S," says Krasnai. "We may see a drop in scores. The question is: are we being proactive or are we being reactive? Sometimes, I don't know that we're ahead of these changes."

Slowly, though, Krasnai sees progress. He points to the hiring of Ms. Michelle Holland as the district social worker, working with an outside organization to provide school-based counseling and therapy for students who otherwise might not have access to those services, and the awareness of an "awesome" staff as ways the District is adapting to its changing landscape.

Thirty years ago, Lampeter-Strasburg had a reputation as an agriculture-based school. After the housing boom, L-S became known as one of the richer schools in the area, and began its prolonged trend of academic success, which is "difficult to maintain", Krasnai says.

However, he does not see cause for panic. Once more students have the benefit of coming to the high school from the L-S program at the elementary and middle school levels, they will be more prepared for the high school program, and we should continue to see improvement in the future.

"We are always changing," says Krasnai. "It's still a great place to be."

Editor's Note: This is the fourth part in our Inside L-S series "A changing landscape". View the remainder of the series here.

--Benjamin Pontz, Editor-In-Chief

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