Eric Zeznanski


Seniors at the Chestnut Ridge High School will have an online graduation ceremony in May.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Kudlawiec said the virtual ceremony will be May 29, but added there is potential for an traditional ceremony later in the summer if coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

“The kids have had a tough year, we want to make the best of a bad situation,” Kudlawiec said in an interview Wednesday.

Kudlawiec updated the district school board on the graduation plans at its meeting Tuesday night.

The superintendent on Wednesday said the district will work to “personalize” the online ceremony for the graduating seniors. The goal is to include video clips of each senior receiving a diploma while wearing a cap and gown. The clips would be recorded earlier in the month during individual appointments.

The district hopes to set up time slots for parents to take their child to the middle school auditorium to stage the recording. Those appointments will be done after May 8, if permitted by the state.

District officials still hope to have an in-person ceremony if possible.

“We’d like to do something at the football field,” Kudlawiec said, noting social distancing guidelines would still be followed. “Parents would be able to come and take pictures of their child walking.”

Preliminary dates of June 19, July 16 or Aug. 7 have been scheduled as possible opportunities for a traditional ceremony.

“That will depend on whether the governor lifts the restrictions,” Kudlawiec said.

Prom also has been pushed back to the summer months. Kudlawiec said the event is tentatively scheduled for July 17 at the Bedford Elks Country Club.

The school board, at its meeting, hired Eric Zeznanski as the new high school principal, effective June 30.

Zeznanski, a 2002 Chestnut Ridge graduate, currently is the assistant high school principal. He will replace Max Shoemaker, who is retiring after nearly 40 years in education.

“We’re looking for a seemless transition,” Kudlawiec said. “Max Shoemaker did a really nice job for us. Eric definitely has the mindset to fill his shoes.”

Zeznanski has worked for the school district since 2006. He earned his bachelor’s degree in technology education from California University of Pennsylvania in 2006 and his master’s degree from Boise State University in 2013.

During the meeting, the school board also was updated on the district’s proposed building project by Peter Ortiz, an architect with EI Associates of Harrisburg.

Kudlawiec said the leading proposal for the building plans at this time is to demolish the Central Elementary school building and construct a new middle school next to the high school.

Under the proposal, the current middle school would be renovated into a new elementary school. The new middle school building would be a separate building from the high school, but would share a central boiler, central kitchen area, library, band/music area and health suite.

The construction is estimated to have a total cost of $20.7 million.

Representatives from the PFM Financial Advisors provided an overview of different financing options the district can consider to pay for the work.

The district has about $10.8 million in outstanding debt and a legal borrowing limit of about $42.4 million.

Scott Shearer, managing director of PFM, went through a variety of different financing scenarios for the district.

One option that would not restructure the district’s existing debt would have an estimated annual debt service of about $2.3 million through 2038, about $850,000 more annually than it currently is set to pay through 2026.

Restructuring the debt over 20 or 25 years would lower the annual local debt service to about $2.1 million and $1.8 million, respectively.

Delaying the project until 2026, when the district’s current debt will be paid off, would drop the annual debt service payments to about $1.8 million over 20 years and $1.6 million over 25 years. Shearer noted that the delay would not result in a savings in the total cost for the district.

“By waiting, it doesn’t lower the millage impact,” Shearer said.

The school board requested more information from PFM on options if it chose to use a portion of its general fund balance to pay for the work.

“We want to get more information and discuss it again at the May meeting,” Kudlawiec said, adding he didn’t expect the school board to vote to move forward with the project until at least June or July.

Contact Will DeShong at; 623-1151, ext. 150.

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