After a year of deep cuts across the Warren County School District and a second year of teacher furloughs and even more cuts, there was some good news at Monday's school board meeting.
Full-day kindergarten, a program popular with the board and the staff, is safe, at least for the 2012-2013 school year.
"There are a lot of rumors out there that we are looking at cutting kindergarten," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said. "We are looking forward to running full-day kindergarten."
The district had provided for the program based on Gov. Tom Corbett's original budget proposal.
Hufnagel said the budget passed by the state Senate includes Accountability Block Grant (ABG) funding the district and many others used to fund full-day kindergarten. The statewide $50 million ABG line item is half what it was for the current year. In Corbett's proposal, that line item was completely cut.
The district will handle alternative education in house next year.
"We are moving forward in creating the district-wide in-house alternative ed program," Hufnagel said.
That program will be housed at Warren Area High School.
Moving away from contracting outside services saved the district enough to pay for an administrator for the program. Misty Weber, who is assistant principal at Warren Area High School, will be the principal of the district-wide alternative education program and the proposed district cyber school program.
The administration hopes the cyber program can lure students back from other cyber schools, saving the district enough money to fully fund her position. "That is the challenge that we've given to Misty," Hufnagel said.
The board unanimously approved HRLC Architects of Erie for the design and construction supervision of the K-12 renovations at both Eisenhower Middle High School and Sheffield Area Middle High School.
According to Director of Buildings and Grounds Services Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht, HRLC agreed to the fee schedule set by the district. The architect firm the district has been dealing with in other projects, WTW of Pittsburgh, wanted to add an additional cost to the project, Kennerknecht said.
Also, signing a different architect means the district will not have to wait for WTW to finish its current projects before the K-12 projects can begin, he said, adding, "We can move simultaneously in this fashion."
Hufnagel said the development of educational specifications for the two K-12 campuses has begun.
The board discussed removing some restrictions from the deed for the former Lander Elementary School. Board member Tom Knapp moved that all restrictions be removed.
According to Solicitor Chris Byham, the restrictions include that the building and grounds not be used as a school or school property, that the building be turned to commercial, industrial or residential use or demolished in a certain amount of time from the 2003 sale, and that it be maintained such that it not create a nuisance situation.
In 2005, the school board approved a motion removing the restrictions. That action was dependent on actions by the owner and never finalized.
Byham recommended that the board either remove the restrictions or rescind the 2005 measure.
Knapp's motion failed 5-to-4.
Board member Donna Zariczny then moved that the board rescind the 2005 item.
Board member Mary Ann Paris moved that that motion be tabled until the April 21 special board meeting to give board members an opportunity to further review the minutes from the April 11, 2005 meeting.
The motion to table, which cannot be discussed, passed 7-to-2.
The board will hold a school closure hearing regarding five elementary schools - Allegheny Valley, Russell, Sheffield, South Street, and Sugar Grove - at 7 p.m. Monday, June 4, at the Struthers Library Theatre in downtown Warren.
The closures are not to take effect until construction of K-12 facilities are complete in the case of the northern and eastern attendance area schools, and until there is space for the South Street students at Warren Area Elementary Center.
"Without completed construction projects these closures will not be taking place," Hufnagel said.