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State College School Administrators Considering Alternative Plans to Make-Up Snow Days

by on February 24, 2014 9:36 PM

Administrators with the State College Area School District are weighing options to address an unexpected number of snow days that students will have to make up up in the coming months.

Robert O'Donnell, district superintendent, told the school board at its public meeting Monday he will present the board with potential solutions during the board's March 3 meeting.

The last day of school was originally slated for Friday, June 6. Due to severe weather, the district has had to cancel several days of school making the school year one week longer with the last day now Friday, June 13.

Graduation is slated for Saturday, June 7.

The district built two snow make-up days into the 2013-2014 calendar with the understanding that any additional make-up days be added to the end of the school year.

O'Donnell says if the district has to cancel school moving forward, adding any more make-up days to the end of the year could impact families' summer vacations. If the school calendar goes beyond Friday, June 13, he says, "We'll have a lot of families that have already committed to plans."

Additionally, some schools in the district do not have air-conditioning systems to accommodate students attending class as temperatures increase in June, he says.

To address the issue, O'Donnell says he will present the board with two potential strategies to ensure students meet the required school hours for the year.

"We still have a few weeks left of winter, so we want to be sure we provide a recommendation on how we can best work through the remainder of the year," he says.

In other news, the board approved contracts for the district's three administrative unions under Act 93. The district currently has separate administrative compensation plans for administrators, managers and supervisors. The agreements are for three years beginning July 1, 2014, and ending June 30, 2017. The Act 93 agreements allow for discussion sessions, and not collective bargaining sessions.

The agreement covers nearly 70 employees. The salary increases under these agreements will be 2.8 percent, 2.7 percent, and 2.6 percent. Employees agreed to continue the health care plans initiated in 2013-2014.

Randy Brown, the district's business administrator, also discussed the governor's proposed budget for 2014-2015 and how it will impact the district. Specifically, he says that compared to the 2010-2011 school year, the district is expecting to see $1.2 million less. The largest deduction is due to the loss of reimbursement for charter school expense.

At the same time, under the proposal, funding is level for the basic education subsidy, special education revenue, transportation revenue and vocational education compared to the 2013-2014 budget. Pennsylvania block grants are expected to increase by nearly $283,000 for various programs, including STEM.

In the area of curriculum, Jacquelyn Martin, director of secondary curriculum, reviewed with the board a new literacy program for middle schoolers that teaches students to critically think about the different media they encounter, from textbooks to song lyrics to photographs.

"Our belief is that reading is not just about fluency and decoding, it's really about ... problem solving at deeper levels," says Martin.

Of 238 students surveyed, 94 percent reported a mostly positive experience under the new program and six percent reported mostly negative experience. All students reported that they gained reading and thinking skills and 92 percent reported they developed deeper thinking skills.

O'Donnell, who has observed some of the new classroom approaches, praises the program. Specifically, he observed students analyzing song lyrics and instrumental music.

The non-traditional approach "has shown me that kids can get fired up over learning through these different strategies you're applying here," he says. "It was pretty engaging work to say the least."

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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