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School district name change advances

Olivia Jones, 8, and Sam Gaston, 8, walk to their parents' cars after dismissal Wednesday at South Butler Primary School in Saxonburg.

SAXONBURG — A bill before the state Legislature to change the name of the South Butler County School District is moving forward, and changing the name to the Knoch School District seems to be agreeable to locals.

State Rep. Marci Mustello, R-11th, introduced House Bill 232 as an action to amend state school code to allow public school districts to change their name through a two-thirds vote by the school board and notification to the state Department of Education.

To speed up the process, Mustello teamed up with state Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-62nd, who also has a school district in his constituency that is looking to change names.

The state House of Representatives recently passed an amended HB 232 that narrows the scope of the bill to just those two school districts.Mustello said she hopes the amended bill will be up for its third and final vote the week of Jan. 27, when the Legislature returns to Harrisburg from its winter break.Mustello pointed out that no provision to change a school district's name was included in the state school code when it was created in 1949, but that other districts have changed their names.Seneca Valley School District changed from the Southwestern Butler County School District in 1986, and the Pine-Richland School District in northern Allegheny County changed in 1982 from the Babcock School District.Mustello said she is confused about being told to go through the House and Senate for South Butler County because when Struzzi alerted the state education department about changing the school district's name in his district, he was told to go ahead because there was nothing in school code to prevent it.“For whatever reason, they are making us jump through all these hoops,” Mustello said.After passing the state House, the bill will move to the Senate Education Committee before being voted upon by the full Senate, Mustello said.She said there is no way to predict when the name change could be approved.

Those shopping at Sprankle's Neighborhood Market on Wednesday seemed to agree with the idea of changing to the Knoch School District.The names of the district's four schools are split, with the primary school and intermediate elementary school carrying the South Butler County prefix, while the secondary schools are Knoch Middle School and Knoch High School. The name Knoch is from the family who donated the land for the district's secondary campus. The primary schools are on Knoch Road and the secondary campus is at the intersection of Dinnerbell and Knoch roads.The niece of John Roebling, the wire-rope inventor who founded Saxonburg, married a Knoch in the mid-1800s. Their descendants donated the property to the school district in the 1950s.

Patricia Penny of Saxonburg was a member of the third class to graduate from Knoch High School in the early 1960s.Her son also graduated from Knoch High.“I think it would be a good idea,” Penny said of renaming the district.She said the Knoch family was integral to Saxonburg's early growth and members of the family continue to live in the area.Kamryn Burtner, who is an eighth-grader at Knoch Middle School, offered another view.She said because the district's sports teams are all named the Knoch Knights, people from surrounding districts sometimes don't recognize the South Butler County name.“I guess it would be beneficial because none of our sports teams are named 'South Butler,'” Kamryn said.

Debbie Headley of Freeport, whose children graduated from Knoch High, agreed.“People would be able to better relate to what area we are talking about if we say the Knoch School District,” Headley said.

Troy Lindsey of Winfield Township said his children also graduated from Knoch High.“I have no problem with it either way, but if someone says the Knoch School District, you know what they are talking about,” Lindsey said.Lorrie Simmons of Penn Township said if she says her children went to the South Butler County School District, people are not clear which district that is.“I like Knoch,” Simmons said. “If you say 'Knoch,' people recognize the Knoch Knights.”Doug Sprankle, owner of the market, said he agrees that the school's brand is already centered around the Knoch name.“It makes sense to me,” Sprankle said.The school board voted 8-1 in December 2019 to change the district's name to the Knoch School District.

Elementary students head to the buses after dismissal Wednesday at South Butler Primary School in Saxonburg.Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Elementary students head to the buses after dismissal Wednesday at South Butler Primary School in Saxonburg. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle. 01/12/22
Olivia Jones, 8, and Sam Gaston, 8, walk to their parents' cars after dismissal Wednesday at South Butler Primary School in Saxonburg. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle. 01/12/22
Debbie Headly of Freeport is in favor of the the possible South Butler County School District name change to the Knoch School District. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Troy Lindsey