LEWISTOWN It's a beehive of activity in and around the Mifflin County Junior High School as contractors are working feverishly to get the renovation project to the point where students can use the building for the start of the 2014-15 school year.
On Thursday, during its monthly committee-of-the-whole meeting, the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors was presented with an update on the progress of the renovations by Vern McKissick, president of McKissick and Associates of Harrisburg, the district's architectural firm.
"The project is close to being on schedule," McKissick reported. "This month, we'll be halfway through the dollars because the project was heavily front-loaded because of the conversion work."
McKissick said the administrative offices are scheduled to be ready for occupancy early in the month of August.
"By then, it (administration) should be in good shape," he said.
In an effort to keep board members appraised of the renovation's progress, Superintendent James Estep and McKissick agreed on Thursday, August 14, as a day for interested board members to take a "walk through" the school to get a first-hand look at the project.
Following that discussion, McKissick outlined the following change orders for the project that the board will vote on during its business meeting on July 24:
$52,500 credit to delete bid alternates to remove any unused roof curbs and remove all existing capped roof curbs;
$7471.88 to provide labor and materials for three triangular plastic laminate counters with stainless steel tops and corner angles;
$3,331.53 to provide labor and materials to modify the room system over the main administration canopy and cafeteria entrance from the bus drop;
$2,149.62 to provide labor and materials to modify the new stainless steel table at the dish return window;
$5,369.77 to replace deteriorated flanges at toilets in the gang toilet rooms;
$3,582.69 to provide labor and materials to install new low-voltage switches and relays to control the light fixtures in band room 151;
$1,025.79 to provide labor and materials to install additional emergency exit light fixtures in the boys locker room;
$2,431.13 to provide labor and materials to upgrade conduits and wires
and $3,925.26 to provide labor and materials to revise light fixtures from recessed to exposed fixtures.
In other business Thursday, Estep relayed information he received earlier in the day via e-mail on a list of charter and cyber charter schools that most school districts are required to support and how much from each district is paid out. He also noted the information demonstrated that every charter or cyber charter school is below 70 percent passing levels, which is below the profile for the Mifflin County School District for the recently completed 2013-14 school year.
"Even though we were able to stem the growth of what we pay out, we still paid $1,678,000 for charter schools," Estep reported. "I'm not bashing charter schools but had we not done what we did internally (establishing the Alpha and Mifflin County Online programs) we would have probably paid over $2 million. So when you're out on the street and people start asking you about tax increases, remind them that nearly $1.7 million, which is ironically near equal to the amount of tax we levied, is going to charter schools that aren't performing as well as the Mifflin County School District."
Estep said that, until recently, the state reimbursed districts 30 percent of the money they were outlaying for charter schools.
"That's all been axed now," he noted. "I'm only bringing this up to make a case that our schools are outperforming many of the charter schools to which we pay tuition."
When asked how many Mifflin County students attend either charter or cyber charter schools, Vance Varner, director of secondary education, said 179.
On a related note, during the public comment period, Mary Wheeler, a parent with a child that attends a charter school, asked for information on how much Mifflin County pays per student for a yearly education and how are Mifflin County students that are in charter schools doing. Varner said the state does not release information on the the progress of students and Chief Financial Officer Sean Daubert said he would need to research the total amount of dollars spent on individual students before providing her with an answer.
Wheeler said she has a child with special needs attending a cyber charter school.
"We're pleased with the cyber school," She said. "They are meeting her needs and she's getting a good education. She's making progress and it's an option for some students."
Other agenda items slated to be voted on during the board's July 24 business meeting include:
Consideration of the Burnham Bulldogs special needs football team's request to waive the fee of $300 for the use of Mitchell Field on Sunday, Oct. 26. The team would still be responsible for staff fees of approximately $603.75.
Consideration of the Central Keystone Football and Cheer League's request to waive the fee of $300 for the use of Mitchell Field on Saturday, Oct. 11 and $300 for Sunday, Oct. 12. The league would still be responsible for staff fees of approximately $1,691.25.
Approval of the McClure Company for the chiller install at Lewistown Elementary School as the low bidder in the amount of $24,000.
A recommendation to approve a resolution regarding the use of bond issue funds to reimburse the district for project expenditures.
That the title 205 day assistant elementary principal be changed to 205 day elementary principal for Joseph Stroup, who was hired during a special voting meeting June 12. The change is in reference to title only, salary will remain as previously approved.
Approval of a contract rate of $60 per hour for Cynthia Heister, occupational therapist assistant supervisor, for a minimum of 12 hours per month.
The hiring of permanent teachers for the 2014-15 school year including Kari Kenepp, kindergarten at Indian Valley Elementary; Vicki Mattey, third grade at East Derry Elementary; Sierra Chesney, first grade at East Derry Elementary; Jacob Smith, math at the high school; Lori Saltzer, math at the high school; Andrew Ahearn, math at the high school and middle school; Krystena Brown, English at the high school; John Jay Huerbin, reading at the middle and junior high schools; Meagan Byler, third grade at Lewistown elementary; Katherine Goeller, autistic support at the middle school; Laurel Frymyer, autistic support at the middle school; Kristy Fitzgerald, learning support at the junior high school and Marie Scafuri, life skills support at East Derry Elementary.
The hiring of Jennifer Natalini as a school psychologist district-wide.
The hiring of Christa Pagnatto as a temporary learning support teacher at the junior high school.
Acceptance of the resignation of Joanna McKalips, emotional support teacher at the middle school, effective August 22.
A recommendation to approve the Mifflin County High School Marching Band to attend the Tournament of Bands Atlantic Coast Championship Series Show on Sunday, Nov. 2 in Hershey.
The resignation of Nichola Hidlay, physical therapist, effective Aug. 22.
Additions to the substitute teacher list including Karen Korona, elementary and Nancy Aurand, elementary.
Granting of tenure for faculty including Charles Fuller, Christopher Evans, Lindsey Reich, Shashona Baker, Matthew Reed and Monica Cox.
Approval of volunteer coaches for 2014-15 including Seth Yearick, cross country and Erin Bishop, girls soccer.
Approval of coaches for the 2014-15 school year including Jon Corbin, first assistant girls basketball; Crystal Weaver, head grade nine girls basketball; Matthew Walters, assistant grade eight girls basketball; L. Dale Searer, first assistant wrestling; Joseph Eckenroth, assistant wrestling; Garry Price, head junior high wrestling; David Wray, assistant junior high wrestling; Scot Sechler, assistant winter track; Kierstin Walker, assistant winter cheerleading; Jennifer Johnson, junior high winter cheerleading and Taylor Hynson, assistant junior high volleyball.
Varner announced that interviews for the vacant boys basketball coach position at Mifflin County High School are planned on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. He said he hopes the board will have a recommendation in time for the July 23 voting meeting. The new coach will serve as successor to long time coach Aaron Gingrich, who announced his resignation in June.