School year closes for JCSD

MIFFLINTOWN – As the school year comes to a close for the Juniata County School District, Superintendent Richard Musselman says 2013-2014 was a time of growth and development.

The district made additional progress with its technology, which has been modernized throughout the past few years. Musselman said the district implemented Sapphire, a new student management system, at the beginning of the school year. The previous system had been outdated for a long time, he said, and the district was facing complications with data transfer and collection.

The move from the former system to Sapphire caused confusion over bus routes in the first week of the 2013-2014 school year. Parents reported that students were experiencing long routes and crowded conditions.

“The data (Rohrer bus company) had to work with was very, very sketchy at best,” Musselman said. “They had to use some handwritten information. They really had an uphill battle at the start of the year to re-create those routes.”

He said Rohrer management brought extra people in to resolve the issues within a week or two of the start of school.

“You always have issues on buses … but we’ve been running pretty normal since probably the second week of school,” Musselman said.

Musselman said he anticipates a smooth start to the 2014-2015 year.

Since updating its technology infrastructure two years ago, the district has saved almost $200,000 per year and is looking to put that system to greater use, he said.

Administration is encouraging the school board to modify the district’s technology policy and allow students to bring their own devices to school. Musselman said the district’s budget doesn’t allow Juniata County to purchase technology devices for every child, but many students have their own accessories.

With permission from district principals, several schools already have experimented with allowing students to use their own technology in the classroom. Musselman said the project has been successful.

“A large number of students have come to school with devices,” he said.

Students without their own technology can use one of the district-owned laptops or Chromebooks.

“It’s not perfect, but it certainly has the ability to do more with technology than what we’ve had in the past,” Musselman said.

He said greater access to the district’s wireless network is an update he’d like to see in the near future.

Arguably the most significant updates to the district are renovations underway at school buildings throughout Juniata County.

East Juniata High School will have a new geothermal heating and cooling system installed this summer, as well as new doors and windows to seal the building. A security vestibule – the first in the district – also will be constructed.

Construction of a new shop addition, including two classrooms, are scheduled to be completed in January or February of 2015, Musselman said. The renovation will increase shop areas by 30 to 40 percent and allow more students to safely take classes.

The heating and cooling system at Juniata High School also will be updated with a geothermal system similar to that at EJHS. Windows and some doors will be replaced this summer at Tuscarora Junior High School.

Musselman said all eight elementary schools, the junior high school and both high schools will have monitoring systems installed this summer. This will allow administration to monitor heat, freezers and refrigeration, as well as security, of buildings when no one is present at the school.

An ongoing project at Walker Elementary School is scheduled to be completed before the beginning of next school year, Musselman said. The school has been using bottled water and hand washing stations for the past year due to well contamination. A new well is scheduled to be drilled over summer break and should be approved for use before school starts.

“By the start of school next year, we should have clean drinking water for our students,” Musselman said.

As district officials budget for widespread renovation and ongoing costs, the school board also found room in the budget to add three media specialists at the elementary level. Musselman said specialists will provide instruction for online research and keyboarding. The teachers will rotate among the elementary schools.

A school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 10 in the JHS building trades classroom at Dietrick Field, 3931 William Penn Highway, Mifflintown. A business meeting is tentatively set to be held after the workshop at Fermanagh-Mifflintown Elementary School, 75 S. Seventh St., Mifflintown. Items to be discussed are the grandstands at Dietrick Field and a possible superintendent search. Musselman was selected as a finalist candidate for the position of superintendent in the Midd-West School District and may be voted into the position next week.