School board debates calendar and holidays

PAT FRIDGEN

The Feb. 4 worksession of the Greencastle-Antrim School Board brought out more discussion than the earlier regular meeting. Board members considered the start of the 2010-2011 school year and funding for the Franklin County Career and Technology Center renovations. Action on both will be taken at the next meeting.

Supt. Dr. C. Gregory Hoover recommended the later start for the next school year, Aug. 30 to June 7. One change from the original schedule would be to shift a long weekend from March 18 to 21 to the previous weekend, March 11 to 14. He did, however, want the board to carefully consider the Early Start for the years after that. He had received letters and verbal comments from citizens on both starting dates, but personally believed an early start, in mid-August, benefitted children academically.

"Education is better in August than any other time," Hoover said. "We can improve education and it doesn't cost a lot. In June we spin our wheels."

He planned to initiate conversations with the other Franklin County school districts because each participated with courses at the FCCTC. He agreed some problems cropped up with an early start to the school year, such as athletic practices, the Franklin County fair and summer camps. They, however, ranked beneath education, he said.

The Late Start does have off the first two days of hunting season in November. Administrators said when the district one year held school on that Tuesday, students missed both days, but so did the staff, necessitating hiring substitute teachers and being without some in administration.

Kristy Faulkner asked that Martin Luther King Day be celebrated as a day off, to match the other county schools. The board was split on how to observe the day.

"The Veterans Day celebration (in the schools) was wonderful," she said. "We don't have much diversity to begin with. If we don't put forth the same effort for MLK Day as for Veterans Day, then maybe we should take it off."

William Thorne thought students would learn more about the meaning of the day in school and Eric Holtzman said too many used vacation days to watch TV and go shopping.

Arnie Jansen saw the day off as paying honor to King.

Hoover said the district used to take off Veterans Day but few students attended community observances, so the day went back onto the school calendar and now assemblies are held to inform children on the meaning of the holiday. He promised to do a better job of observing MLK Day next year, which this year was left up to the discretion of the teachers.

FCCTC

Hoover reported on the latest meeting of the Joint Operating Committee, comprised of each of the county school districts sending students to FCCTC. Chambersburg had changed plans from its original intent to build a high school onto the career center. Because of state funding and parent wishes, the large borough now wanted to purchase land owned by the Franklin County Technical School Authority for its own education center.

Each district in the Authority gets one vote on how renovations to FCCTC will be funded. While a $15 million project was one choice, Greencastle supported the second plan, priced at $13 million. The board members agreed with the JOC that a $10.5 million project would not meet the needs of the aging building, as it would not add extra space.

The school directors needed to sign Articles of Agreement, but couldn't agree on the share of the cost they should assume. Chambersburg had adjusted the numbers to increase the financial support from the smaller districts. G-ASD was at 13.78 percent, equal to one-half mill.

Chambersburg's annual cost of borrowing would drop $166,545 to $257,166 while Greencastle's would go up $1,943 to $81,167.

Jansen was irritated that the expense would go up for local taxpayers, yet Chambersburg did not support obtaining a request for proposal to find the best deal in collecting earned income taxes under a new mandatory county-wide system, perhaps costing taxpayers many thousands of dollars per year.

Howard Ritchey concurred with the ambiguity. "As the largest district, Chambersburg wants everyone to bow down to them."

Regular business

During the formal meeting, the board accepted the resignations of fourth grade teacher Suzanne Hess and environmental education teacher Charles White, effective next November and August, respectively.

The board awarded a bus purchase buy-back program with Wolfington Body Company, Inc. at a net cost of $314,100. Business manager Richard Lipella credited transportation director Thomas Dick with negotiating the contract, spending only $100 more than last year. The district will also bid on a 72-passenger bus, which had formerly been leased. Lipella said the move in essence saved a bus in the fleet and the spare would pay for itself through rentals.

Hoover announced that over 30 people had applied for the position of Greencastle-Antrim Education Foundation director.