Students in the United School District will be returning for full-time, in-person instruction when they are welcomed for their first day on Aug. 26.
School directors on Tuesday approved a revised phased reopening health and safety plan that allows for students to socially distance in classrooms to where they will not need to wear masks. Students will need to wear face coverings in settings such as a computer lab where 6-foot distancing is not feasible; at the bus stop; on the bus, where students will be seated two per seat; and in hallways.
Superintendent Barbara Parkins released a statement saying that “most parents of United students wish to have their children return to school in-person,” according to a recent survey. Of the respondents, 77.3 percent prefer to have their children return to school full time if they are able to remove their face coverings, the statement said.
“We have made this request possible by rearranging nearly every classroom in the district to accommodate the 6-foot social distancing guideline,” the statement says. “Because students in these classrooms are able to abide by this, we will be allowing students to remove their masks once they are seated at their designated spots.”
Parkins said in an email Wednesday that “until something else changes, Red (phase) will be the only time that students would be home working remotely.”
While students will be in classrooms full time for the coming year, Parkins said parents who feel uncomfortable with their child returning have the option of enrolling them in the district’s own cyber program, United Cyber Academy, “which has been in place for nearly a decade.”
The reopening plans for the district and United PreK Counts can be found on the district website under COVID-19 Resources.
The board also approved a resolution declaring the coronavirus pandemic as an emergency within the Pennsylvania School Code, providing for temporary emergency provisions due to a declared emergency.
What that resolution means, Parkins summarized, is that for the duration of the pandemic, but in no event for any period exceeding four years, the superintendent has the authority to develop a health and safety plan in a manner prescribed by the state Education Department that ensures a minimum of 180 days of instruction, allowing for a minimum of 900 instruction hours at the elementary school and 990 instruction hours at the secondary level through any combination of in-person, virtual and distance learning as the superintendent deems appropriate to address the health and safety of students.
The school board on Tuesday also awarded a three-year contract to Nathan Henry as a technology assistant at $35,000 for the first year, with an annual increase of 2 percent over the base salary of the prior year for the remaining two years of the contract.
In other business, the directors voted to approve:
• A Best Window and Door proposal for $8,904 to manufacture and install eight windows in the junior high wing and an $800 proposal to install one window at the elementary school.
• A Freedom Window Film proposal for $900 for installation of security film glass on the main office entry doors at the elementary school.
• The purchase of additional software to the district’s library system, Destiny Library Manager, by Follett School Solutions for the purpose of scanning and tracking district technology devices, at a cost of $1,998.
• A tuition agreement with New Story to provide services for a secondary student for 2020-21 for $308 per day and any other related service costs as needed.
• A notice of grant application for DonorsChoose.org for a $553.94 grant by Ryan Henning to purchase a Bex IQ Super Kit as well as additional battery packs for use in the STEM program at the elementary school for grades four through six.
• A dual enrollment agreement by and between the district and Mount Aloysius College for 2020-21, where the students enrolled agree to pay $60 per credit.
• An Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission Student Assistance Program agreement between the commission and the district for 2020-21. The commission agrees to provide a drug and alcohol SAP liaison to each Student Assistance Core Program at no cost to the district.
• Permission for Penn State University researchers to conduct a study regarding career and educational aspirations of today’s rural Pennsylvania youth.
• A letter of agreement between the district and the Community Guidance Center to provide services to the Student Assistance Program throughout the coming school year, at no cost to the district.
• A letter of agreement between the district and Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies from Sept. 1 to Sept. 1, 2021, to provide community-based work assessments, paid work experience, job finding (placement) or job support (coaching), and workplace readiness skills teaching to United students with disabilities.
• Christopher Wagner as a mentor for recently hired learning support teacher John Saksa at the high school, and a request from Saksa to transfer 15.5 sick days from Forest Hills School District.
• The following nonathletic curriculum support supplemental positions: Jerry Matava, high school social studies department head, $1,916.62 (board President Eric Matava abstained); Lori Gilbert, high school communications department head, $689.20; Darlene Sexton, high school math department head, $1,085.50; Brian Manges, high school science department head, $689.21; Becky McLaughlin, high school special team leader, $1,028.47; Marci Beyer, elementary special team leader, $709.89; Ryan Henning, elementary communications department head, $689.21 (board Vice President Dan Henning abstained); Kathleen Whitcomb, elementary science department head, $689.20; Susan Garaventa, elementary math department head, $804.06; and Michelle Dunn, elementary social studies department head, $662.44.
• The following coaches for 2020-21: Robert Penrose, head boys’ track coach, $4,252.30; Lee Ann Ault, assistant boys’ track coach, $2,539.26; Joshua Henning, assistant boys’ track coach, $1,114.86 (director Dan Henning abstained); Chris Matava, head girls’ track coach, $5,160.34; Keri Miller, assistant girls’ track coach, $2,725.60; Scott McCully, assistant girls’ track coach, $1,941.06; Douglas McNulty, head baseball coach, $2,969.89; Bradley Coleman, assistant baseball coach, $2,183.75; Dennis Rudnik, head softball coach, $2,696.90; Robert Rudnik, assistant softball coach, $2,227.43; Richard Hixson, assistant varsity football coach, $3,330.35; Daeva Simmons, junior high girls’ volleyball coach, $1,665.17; Caleb McAdoo, assistant boys’ varsity basketball coach, $3,532.54.
• The resignation of Louis McElwee as junior high girls’ volleyball coach, effective immediately.
• The resignation of Jennifer Buchkovich and Kelli Yewcic as senior class/trip adviser, effective immediately.
• Becky McLaughlin, Acey Gongaware, Darlene Sexton and Nathan Bevard to oversee high school after-school detention at $20 per hour; and Kelli Griffith, Ryan Henning, Susan Garaventa, Kristen Fisher, Bre Custer, Kayla Erwin and Toni Drakster to oversee elementary after-school detention at $20 per hour.
• The following substitute teachers: Christina Beiter, elementary K-6; Evan Boyko, physics/general science; Dana Coiner, elementary K-6/mid-level math 6-9; Mindie Cunningham, special education PK-12/mid-level math 6-9/math 7-12; Andrew Parkins, elementary K-6/special education N-12; Kira Respet, family and consumer science; and John Sokol, math 7-12.
• Karla Britcher and Heather Vavrek, RNs, as substitute nurses.
• Lyndee Fisher, Erica Spencer and Cheryl Rosenberger as substitute secretaries; and Fisher and Rosenberger as substitute aides.
• Chelsea Cawley and Amy Sapp as substitute custodians.
• Jean Dumm as media coordinator with compensation at $765.72.
• The resignation, with regret, of Eden Bailey as elementary aide, effective immediately.
• A list of 32 van drivers and 44 bus drivers.