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Indiana Area School District considers redoing cafeteria

| Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 5:04 p.m.

Indiana Area School District officials are looking to make changes to the senior high cafeteria in order to make school lunches more desirable to students.

At Monday's meeting, the school board authorized the administration to advertise for bids for kitchen serving line equipment. Under the district's proposal, the old serving line equipment would be replaced, and an additional serving line would be installed as well.

The idea behind the serving-line equipment upgrade is that it will lead to more students purchasing senior high lunches. Business manager Dale Kirsch said participation in the lunch program drops anywhere from 8 to 12 percent from junior high to the senior high.

Food service director Eleanor Sherry said such a pronounced participation drop between junior and senior high is unusual.

"We really believe a lot of it has to do with, they go from the junior high, which has a beautiful cafeteria, it's like a food court setting," Kirsch said. "They get to the high school, there's long lines, and the food doesn't look as attractive because it's not set up like that."

The additional serving line is expected to help speed up the process of students purchasing food. Sherry said it typically takes junior high students five minutes to get their food, compared to 11 minutes at the senior high.

Sherry added that the new equipment would make it easier for the cafeteria to offer more fresh fruit and vegetable options for the students.

The serving line equipment is estimated to cost around $144,000 total over a 12-year period. Kirsch said the district could make up the cost of the equipment with an additional $70 in lunch revenue per day.

The board will also consider a plan to purchase new tables and chairs for the cafeteria within the 2011-12 budget.

Kirsch said the current tables and chairs are "not in the best condition" and have been repaired multiple times. Replacing them would cost about $41,000, he said.

The district is looking for ways to increase seating in the cafeteria because of the addition of ninth-grade students, as well as a long-term plan to go from four to three lunch periods.

The cafeteria currently seats about 250-260. Kirsch said the goal is to increase the capacity to about 290.

New game plan

In other matters, the district will begin to charge admission for varsity volleyball, varsity soccer and junior high football games starting this fall.

Admission rates for varsity football, basketball and wrestling events will remain the same. Kirsch said the district's admission rates for those events were "in the ballpark" with what competing schools were charging while many of them already charged for soccer and volleyball while Indiana Area did not.

Admission for volleyball and soccer will now be $4 for adults and $2 for students. Weekday afternoon soccer games will remain free.

Junior high football games will cost $2 for adults and $1 for students, with admission going toward offsetting the cost of lighting the field during those games.

The motion passed by an 8-0 vote with Diana Paccapaniccia absent.

The board also heard from two senior high students, Hannah Harley and Nick DiGiorgio, who asked district officials to reconsider moving teacher Erik Puskar from the senior high to the junior high.

Puskar taught video productions and photojournalism at the senior high, but has been reassigned to the junior high for the next school year to teach social studies, which was his original certification.

Harley presented board members and administrators with a petition, signed by 171 students, asking that Puskar remain at the senior high.

"The need for a social studies teacher in the junior high is still present, we know; however, by moving Mr. Puskar and denying the future students of IHS the privilege to work with such a phenomenal teacher is unjust," the petition read. "With all due respect to the staff and administration of Indiana Area Senior High School, we ask to let Mr. Puskar stay here where he belongs."

Superintendent Deborah Clawson assured students that the petition would be considered by district officials.

"It won't just remain here on the table," she said. "The board will get it, and so shall we."

Tenure contracts were issued to five employees for having satisfactorily completed three years of teaching: Angela Barnes and Dawn Crawford, special education; Matt Daymut, junior high health and physical education; Brian Henninger, Spanish; and Kristin Lorenzo, junior high English.

The board also:

• Welcomed Molly Masterson as the new student representative to the board, replacing the recently graduated Grace Castro.

• Approved attendance by elementary music teacher Julianne Laird at the American String Teachers Association National Conference in Atlanta from March 21-24 at a cost to the district not to exceed $1,430 and $270 for a substitute.

• Accepted resignations, due to retirement, of custodian Robert Slater, teacher's aide Carol Brown and science aide Susan Stutzman.

• Employed Steve Cochran and Robyn Bailey-Orchard as SAT preparation course instructors, effective Aug. 1-5 and Aug. 8-12 at their per diem rate. A $50 tuition fee will be assessed each student who participates in the course.

• Renewed insurance coverage for the 2011-12 school year at a cost not to exceed $347,640.

• Approved an agreement from the Center for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine (COSM) recommending physician services for athletic contests and sports medicine administration at a cost of $5,000.

• Agreed to a contract with Citizen's Ambulance Service, Inc., for providing a fully equipped and staffed ambulance for all varsity, junior varsity and junior high football games at a cost of $3,475.

• Re-appointed Shafic Twal as school district physician at a rate of $4,500 plus $5 per mandated physical; re-appointed the Indiana County Dental Society and affiliated dentists as district dentists at a rate of $1,000 plus $1.50 per mandated dental exam.

• Approved the revised planned course for Academic Support Reading.

• Employed Leanna Jack as a substitute teacher in the STARS summer literacy program.

• Renewed an agreement with Adelphoi Village to provide a general alternative education program.

The board will meet again Monday to discuss the 2011-12 budget before voting on the spending plan at the June 27 meeting.

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