Estep: Mifflin County’s school year on track to end by June 5

LEWISTOWN – Even with the myriad closings and delays caused by this winter’s harsh conditions, Mifflin County School District is in better shape than a lot of its brethren, according to information released at Thursday’s workshop session of the district’s board of directors.

Superintendent James Estep said he and others on the administrative team have been meeting regularly to deal with the amount of closings due to snow and ice but noted that Mifflin County is in much better shape than a lot of neighboring districts due to the earlier starting date of the current school year.

“We’ve had quite a few snow days and early dismissals,” Estep reported. “As of right now, the calendar looks to be having school end by June 5.”

Estep said he is going to recommend for board approval rescinding Easter Monday, a regularly scheduled day off, and making it a snow make-up day for the board’s vote at its Feb. 27 business meeting. “If we can utilize that as a snow make-up day, we can adjust the calendar to June 4,” he stated.

When asked by board member Annemarie Swineford if the district could add an hour to each day’s schedule as a way to make up for hours lost to date, Estep responded, “We would have to look at the collective bargaining agreements to see if they would allow for that. We can discuss it and look into it but I don’t know logistically if it can be done with the CBAs.”

Board President Mary Lou Sigler then suggested instead of two-hour delays, maybe the district should look into the possibility of three-hour delays on days when weather improves enough early in the day to allow for classes to be held. “If we would have had a three hour delay yesterday, we would have been fine,” she said, referring to Wednesday when freezing rain had melted on roadways about an hour after kids would have been going to school under a two-hour delay.

Estep noted, “We would have to look at issues such as lunch but I think it can be looked at. I’ll also take a look at next year’s calendar. We have built three (snow) days into next year and we may look to adjust that to add a day or two.”

In other business, Matt Shoemaker, Mifflin County School District athletic director, was on hand to propose adding junior high girls volleyball as an official PIAA sport beginning in the fall 2014 semester. Shoemaker said the district currently lags behind national Title IX guidelines regarding female sports participants and adding girls junior high volleyball could be a way to up the numbers of females playing sports.

Shoemaker said one of the most important components of Title IX is the ratio of females to males participating in sports as compared with the number of females to males in school. “It’s strictly based on participants,” Shoemaker said. “Last year there were about six to seven percent more males participating in sports. Our goal is to meet this (criteria). In the future, I’d also like to add girls golf as well.”

Shoemaker said adding junior high girls volleyball wouldn’t help the varsity volleyball team for a few years but, he noted it would be a good feeder system for the program overall. “Right now there’s nothing in the community for seventh and eighth grade girls to play volleyball,” he noted. “Our (overall) numbers are low. We’d like to give girls earlier exposure to volleyball. Not getting girls into volleyball until ninth grade doesn’t bode well for future success.”

According to Shoemaker, the cost to the district’s athletic budget to add the sport would be approximately $8,000, which includes $2,000 for transportation, $5,000 for coaches salaries and $1,000 for uniforms.

The item will be placed on next Thursday’s agenda for a vote.

In addition, Shoemaker and athletic trainer Zach Kabo presented a proposal to partner with Lock Haven University to add an athletic trainer graduate assistant in partnership with University Orthopedics. Both Shoemaker and Kabo stressed current athletic trainers are stretched too far to adequately cover all sporting events, especially those on the lower class levels, such as junior varsity and junior high. The $15,000 to cover the graduate assistant would result in an $8,000 to $10,000 savings over hiring a full-time trainer, they stated.

Estep noted, “I think when it comes to safety and laws on concussions, we’re putting ourselves in harm’s way if we don’t do this. I think it’s a win-win. It helps us and gives them the opportunity to get their education funded.”

In other business, Jerry Myers of Reynolds Construction, project manager for the Indian Valley Elementary School renovation project, gave the board an update on the project’s status and presented 17 change orders totaling roughly $30,000 to vote on at the Feb. 17 meeting. Most of the work on the change orders has already been completed, however some have not yet had work done, Myers said.

As for the project itself, Myers said the finish line is in sight.

“We’re finishing up the final phase, which is phase 3,” Myers reported. “Those areas include the music and art rooms. I think we’re going to meet the contractual completion date of Feb. 28. There will be a few things that are going to happen after that that are weather dependent. All in all, I think the project is coming along well.”

With updated technology, Myers said the district is already beginning to see cost savings in terms of energy usage. “The energy guys have told us that by going from fuel oil to LP gas, the district has seen a savings of $47,000 just in fuel,” Myers said. “Electricity went up some, but nowhere near that.”

Other agenda items up for consideration at the board’s Feb. 27 voting meeting include:

The hiring of Mariann Filler as a full time custodian at the high school effective Feb. 28.

A recommendation to change Sue Fluke from a part-time custodian to substitute effective Feb. 28.

Consideration of a request for the $500 fee to be waived for use of the middle school auditorium by the Friends of the Mifflin County Library and the Lewistown Community Band to hold a benefit concert for the library on April 24. The group would still be responsible for a $120 custodian and event staff fee.

Consideration of a request to waive the $388.13 usage fee for use of the high school by the Indian Valley Elementary/Intermediate Home & School Association for a student variety show April 25 and 26. Vance Varner, director of secondary education, said the association is not being charged the normal building fee because the event involves students. However, the fee being asked to be waived is for the use of janitors at the facility and the fact that the event is taking place on a weekend.

A recommendation to remove Kirk Berrier from the approved bus driver list.

A recommendation that Kimberly Corson be transferred (by bid) from her 5.5 hour cafeteria position at East Derry Elementary to the 6.75 hour full time position at the middle school, effective Feb. 10.

The addition of Amy Banks to the cafeteria substitute list effective Feb. 10.

The resignation of Shannon Fye, part time cafeteria worker at Lewistown Intermediate School, due to other employment.

Approval of Johanna Schuett of Germany as a foreign exchange student at the high school for the 2014-15 school year.

Approval of the following retirements at the end of the current school year: Sarah Jean Strunk, school nurse at Lewistown Intermediate, Strodes Mills Elementary and Sacred Heart Schools; Darlene Maple, school psychologist at Indian Valley Elementary and Lewistown Intermediate School; Mary Henry, K-5 emotional support teacher at Indian Valley Elementary; Jack Anderson, gifted support teacher district-wide; Mark Baylor, music teacher at the middle school and Lewistown Intermediate School; Jan Gilbert, kindergarten teacher at Indian Valley Elementary School; and Vicki Shepherd, sixth grade teacher at the middle school.

The resignation of Kaitlin Mamett, school psychologist at East Derry Elementary and the middle school, due to relocation.

The following deletions from the substitute teacher list: Jessica Butler, Virginia Swigart, Carli Hammond and Lisa Kellas.

The following additions to the substitute teacher list: Melissa Zilch, special education; Wendy Bonson, elementary K-6 special education; Sarah Stiver, earlt childhood special education; and Ian Kenney, music K-12.

A request from the Mifflin County High School Marching Band for its spring trip to visit New York City on April 5 and 6.

A request from the high school and junior high school Technology Student Association to attend the TSA State Competition at Seven Springs Resort April 9-12.

A request from the indoor drumline, indoor guard and indoor majorettes to attend the Tournament of Bands Indoor Association Chapter 4 Championships at Bald Eagle Area High School on Sunday, April 27.

A recommendation to grant tenure to Maddie Kauffman.

The hiring of the following coaches for the fall season: Collette Bender, head fall cheerleading; Gregory Loht, head boys cross country; Jennifer Freed, head girls cross country; Tish Maclay, head girls field hockey; George Miskinis, head football; Ryan Kanaskie, golf; Robert Lepley, head boys soccer; Trevor Eckley, head girls soccer; L. Glenn Kyle, head girls tennis; and Jill Zeger, head volleyball.

Approval of the following volunteer coaches for the 2014 season: Rachael Ziegler, track; and Craig Johnson, softball.

A recommendation to approve the Mifflin County Computer Club to attend the First Robotics Competition at California University of Pennsylvania from March 26 to March 29. If approved, eight students will attend and all expenses will be paid for by the computer club.