Punxsy school board continues to discuss potential closures

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area School Board continued to mull over the notion of closing some elementary schools for the sake of staying within budget at its meeting on Monday.

Jenks Hill Elementary stayed in the hot seat, as much of the discussion centered around it. However, Parkview was also brought forward as a potential closure.

There was some talk of Mapleview as well. However, not as much data was available as of yet in order for the board to fully discuss the implications of such a closure.

Jenks Hill had already been discussed at a prior meeting of the board.
At last month’s meeting Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe indicated a closure of Jenks would force the transfer of students to Longview, Parkview and West End elementary schools. It was also projected the transfer would not add any bus runs, instead decreasing the number by one. Both facts were raised again at the most recent meeting.

Similar solutions were proposed with regard to Parkview. Both closures would result in a roughly equal staff decrease, with the exception that closing Parkview would result in one overly large class that would require possibly retaining of one additional faculty member.

Concerns were raised on the levels of transportation and educational quality, the former applying mainly to the possible Parkview closure.
Francis J. Molinaro, board vice president, repeatedly mentioned the notion of some students in the area who would end up requiring a bus ride of one hour each way under such a closure.

Educational concerns centered mainly around the notion of reducing faculty and adding more students into a number of classes.

“I know we’re trying to save money,” Molinaro said. “But we need to consider other ways.”

“I think everyone here is concerned about education, but we need to be fiscally responsible as well,” Gary Conrad, board president, said, adding that it was their duty to the taxpayers.

The educational debate segued into some brief discussion of returning to a seven-period day, an issue about which the board had spoken at previous meetings.

Board member Bob Pascuzzo said that he had sat down with David London, high school principal, and calculated that 17 days per year of reading and math classes were lost due to the elimination of the last five minutes of instruction.

London said that he did not remember the exact number, but that it was something close to that.

There was also talk of shuffling around some of the students currently in the middle and high schools.

Specifically, it was suggested that third grade be moved up to the middle school, with seventh grade going to high school.

London said that the high school ought to be able to accommodate the influx, given the recent decrease in enrollment, but advised that it would likely result in more traveling teachers and fewer homerooms.

Middle School Principal Richard Britten said that the facility would not be able to take a new grade unless the seventh graders moved up.

However, he said that would be it.

“We can take third,” he said, “but definitely not second.”

It was indicated that such a merger would allow for the reduction of faculty in some elective classes such as shop, home economics and various related art classes.

The board made no decision on the possibility of school closures.

Members of the board indicated plans to continue researching transportation, education and budgetary concerns in order to make an informed decision when the time comes.

In other business, the board made the following approvals:
• A purchase order for $5,580 worth of Apple iPads for the Title I program.

• A district-wide free breakfast day on Sept. 19.

• Purchase orders to EBSCO, ASCC and Keystone Smiles amounting to $6,616.35, $14,115 and $106,200 respectively.

• A LERTA application from Priority First Federal Credit Union for property located at 420 E. Mahoning St.

• The sabbatical leave of Nancy Lazorchak for the first semester of the 2012-2013 school year; the creation of two school play advisor positions with a stipend of $800 for each; a $500 stipend for the stage manager for the school play; the resignation of science teacher Kara Shields effective Aug. 20; several part-time hires including three special education instructional assistants (Marilyn Heitzenrater, Betsy Peffer and Erica Huey), a cafeteria worker (Carol Lafford) and four van monitors (Sharon Wright, Kristen Boal, Diana Polito and Yolanda Weaver); and the resignation of Kelly Sutter from cleaning, effective Aug. 22.

• The hiring of a volunteer assistant girls’ golf coach.

• The payment of bills related to the general and cafeteria funds.

• The disposal of the elementary language arts textbooks and supportive materials after the arrival and classroom distribution of new instructional materials.

• The 21st Century Learning Handbook and recommended program changes for 2012-2013.

• An agreement between the Punxsutawney Area and Marion Center school districts enabling them to pool Title I funds for reading and mathematics instructional services at SS. Cosmas and Damian Catholic Elementary School for eligible services.

• An agreement with The Meadows, a behavioral health facility, to provide educational services for district students placed within at the cost of $30 per hour.

• Participation in the Walmart Teacher Rewards Program. The Punxsutawney Walmart would like to donate $1,000 to West End to help offset the cost of classroom supplies and food. Jenks Hill was selected for this program last year.

The next meeting of the Punxsutawney Area School Board will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 22 at the Central Office boardroom.