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CENTER TOWNSHIP — Directors of the Homer-Center school board on Thursday hired a Penn Run contractor for a summer project at the high school and decided to bring on an extra kindergarten teacher for the 2019-20 school year.

In a special session ahead of the board’s usual monthly business meeting, board members accepted a bid of $270,000 by CNC Construction Inc. to replace and enclose an outdoor stairwell, now in a state of disrepair, at Homer-Center High School.

Board President Michael Bertig said the directors were concerned with “the perceived high cost of the project,” and that board members Justin Smyers and Logan Dellafiora voted against moving forward with it. But Bertig and the other directors — Gerald Bertig, Daniel Fabin, Fred Hayes, James McLoughlin, Vicki Smith and Robert Valyo — approved the contract “in order to increase school safety and security.”

On the recommendation of Superintendent Charles Koren, the board agreed to hire a long-term substitute kindergarten teacher beginning on Aug. 14 to reduce the average size of the kindergarten classes.

Administrators said 63 children have been registered to begin kindergarten for 2019-20 and classes would have averaged 21 students for each of the three current K-level teachers.

“Based on educational research that kindergarten class sizes should be in the mid-teens,” board President Michael Bertig said, the board voted 8 to 1 to add a fourth teacher, which would mean an average of 16 students per classroom.

Designating the position as a substitute would enable the board to abolish the post if the actual enrollment falls lower than the projection.

Director Valyo voted against the motion.

The board met in special session this week because of a concern for giving the stairway construction project contractor enough time to do the work before school starts in late August.

The Homer-Center board will convene Thursday for the regular monthly meeting with the final 2019-20 budget among other matters on the agenda.

Staff writer/Web Editor, The Indiana (Pa.) Gazette

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the Indiana Area and Homer-Center school boards and White Township, Center Township, Homer City and Burrell Township, and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.