Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Learning center gets help from county

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagzette.net on April 11, 2013 10:50 AM

The proposed Challenger Learning Center in Indiana County got another boost Wednesday when the county commissioners authorized the submission of a business plan, and later they will submit a full grant application if invited to do so by the state, to help build the center.

The grant application to the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program will request up to $1.5 million to develop a 10,000-square-foot center for the NASA-affiliated facility at a site still to be chosen.

The Challenger Learning Centers were started by survivors of the astronauts who died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986, and the one planned for Indiana County would be the first in Pennsylvania.

Their purpose is to provide a regional science learning facility for students in grades kindergarten through 12, with hands-on experiments that will relate their traditional classroom work efforts to real-world applications in science and math.

Other goals of the centers are to increase the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses that students will take during their secondary and post-secondary educations, and provide students entering the workforce with the necessary skill sets to pursue STEM-related careers.

“It’s taken on a very regional aspect. It’s getting very broad support” from schools in and outside Indiana County, Tom Harley, president of the Indiana Area School District board of directors, told the commissioners.

Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro, chairwoman of an ad hoc committee guiding the Challenger center process locally, said that within a one-hour drive of Indiana County there are 27 school districts with 100,000 students who might use the center.

Possible sites for the center are being evaluated. A final choice may be made and an application for a center may be submitted before the end of May, she said.

Also at their meeting Wednesday, the commissioners:

  • Agreed to increase the starting pay rate for about a dozen nurses with less experience at the Communities at Indian Haven from $10.35 per hour to $10.85 per hour to be competitive with other facilities hiring nurses.
  • Appointed John Somonick, of Indiana, to a term on the Indiana County Planning Commission, expiring in January 2016.
  • Accepted the low bid of $19,298. from Quaker Sales, of Johnstown, to seal coat the roads in Pine Ridge Park.
  • Proclaimed April 14 to 20 as National Telecommunicators Week in the county, recognizing radio dispatchers who are county residents’ “first and most critical” contact in emergencies.
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April 11, 2013 10:40 AM
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