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INDIANA: Calendar adjusted to make up for lost snow days

by on February 25, 2014 11:00 AM

This year’s brutal winter weather will be leaving its mark on the area well past Memorial Day.

The administration in the Indiana Area School District has extended the school year to make up days of classes lost to snow, ice and bitter cold this season.

The district will hold classes on four days originally listed for snow makeup — March 17, April 17, April 22 and May 23 — then keep the schools open on Friday, June 6, one day after the scheduled last day for students.

District Superintendent Dale Kirsch told the school board Monday that the district may ask the state Department of Education to allow the district to excuse seniors from the additional day and to hold graduation as scheduled on June 5.

In other business, the board:

• Voted to advertise for an assistant superintendent, but did not formally create the position.

“This is not an additional position for the district,” Kirsch said. “We’re anticipating some yet-to-be voted on transfers within the district that will create this opening. We’re trying to get the advertisement out and get the process moving. If those internal transfers for some reason do not occur, we will not fill it.”

• Again tabled consideration of the proposed health and physical education curriculum for the senior high. Board members tabled the plan Feb. 10, after hearing of dissatisfaction with elimination of the health class for ninth-graders and the lack of a phys ed requirement for 12th-grade students.

Administrators and the phys ed faculty met Feb. 17 to brainstorm ideas and Kirsch summarized their suggestions in a memo to the board. He also recommended further delay in the decision until the schedules for fourth- and fifth-grade phys ed at Horace Mann and Eisenhower schools is confirmed.

“We will determine how many elementary HPE teachers could teach a first period course at the Senior High and what impact that could have on the Senior High HPE courses,” Kirsch wrote.

The teachers and administrators also suggested that phys ed could be restored to 12th grade if the remaining teachers each taught one extra class per day and the graduation requirement be increased by one-half credit.

And they recommended adding a “health standards” component to the “On Your Own” course taught in grades 9 and 10, a provision that was placed on the agenda for the board to consider.

Director Diana Paccapaniccia called for the district to restore the full health class for ninth-grade students.

“I still think it’s very important that a separate course in health is offered in the ninth- and 11th-grade years, especially because ninth grade is a high-risk year,” Paccapaniccia said.

Board member Deborah Clawson said drug and alcohol education, which is included in the ninth-grade health class, is required in all Pennsylvania schools.

“I want to put on the table for the board to consider that … ‘Section 1547 of the school code in Pennsylvania requires each public school student to receive instruction on the prevention of alcohol, chemical and tobacco abuse in every year in every grade from K to 12,’” Clawson said.

Kirsch said the additional delay would not affect senior high student scheduling, which is now under way.

• Accepted with regret the retirement notices of Donald Gray, a custodian and courier for 35 years in the district, and Linda Stewart, a gifted-support teacher, who has been with the district 23 years. Gray will retire Friday; Stewart will finish out the school year. The district will post both positions for applications.

• Hired Amy McDowell, a pre-kindergarten teacher, to an extra-duty, extra-pay assignment as a junior high technical assistant at a salary of $612.

• Hired Sue Brown as an after-school math program substitute instructor for students in third through fifth grades at the per diem rate for 10 two-hour sessions.

• Agreed to offer geometry as a summer school class for senior high students and advancement in math to the junior-high summer school program, both at no additional cost to the district.

• Was told that the district’s share of the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit 28 general operating budget for 2014-15 would be $156,320. The amount is the same as the contribution for 2014.

• Heard a protest against the district’s elementary realignment plan from district resident Gino Cosentino, of White Township, who said he could find no academic reasons for the change.

“I’ve never found one. I’ve gone to meetings, I’ve listened and I’ve heard the main issue: It’s a money thing. … It ought not to be,” Cosentino said. “I have spoken with at least 50 parents in the community … and not one single parent is for this. And that’s a shame.

“They all feel like these answers are all being done in private, that we’re left out in the dark and we’re not a part of it. That is truly unfortunate. And I think … this will be a boon for cyber schools, for home schooling and private schools.”

Cosentino spoke during the public comment period, following board President Thomas Harley’s opening remarks, in which he told those attending the board meeting that the realignment plan will not be reversed, and class assignments soon will be announced to students and teachers.

“This board in January voted to proceed with the realignment … and I want to make very clear that is going to happen in fall 2014,” Harley said. “We are working on the details of scheduling, busing, staffing ... and the administration will be communicating directly to the students, teachers and parents.”

Beginning in September, the kindergarten through third-grade students will attend Ben Franklin and East Pike schools, while the fourth- and fifth-graders will attend Horace Mann and Eisenhower elementary schools.



Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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