Leechburg calls time on WPIAL departure

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:38 a.m.

The Leechburg Area School Board will revisit its decision to move the district's sports teams to the Heritage Conference, the board decided Wednesday.

It's unclear what exactly, if anything, the board may do next week about its decision to pull out of the WPIAL. No specific language was put together for the board to vote on.

The district's coaches will be asked to attend the meeting. If they choose not to appear, they will be asked to at least say whether or not they support the move and why.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association was set to give final approval in May for Leechburg Area's move from District 7, which is the WPIAL, to District 6 and the Heritage Conference, starting in the 2014-15 school year.

The two districts had previously approved the move.

But the PIAA board postponed its vote on the advice of District 7 President Jack Fullen, who said he was aware through news reports of parent and student opposition. The PIAA board could next take up the matter when it meets in July.

Parents and students have objected strongly since the board voted in March to pursue the move. They said they were caught off guard by the decision, which they claim was made without any input from the community or the district's athletes.

Objections have focused on students facing increased distance travel time for away games, causing them to lose time in class and hurting their studies.

District officials have said the move would put the district's teams on an even playing field, allowing its students to be more competitive.

In the wake of the PIAA delay, district officials said they were determined to stay on course.

But the choice to revisit the decision comes after a meeting last week between district officials and parents concerned about the issue.

Board member Neill Brady said suggestions that came out of that private meeting included forming a committee of school board and community members to study a move to the Heritage Conference, including travel times for each sport.

Holding scrimmage games with Heritage Conference schools before a move to see how Leechburg Area teams perform was also suggested, board Vice President Jean Stull said.

Board member Carlotta Del Vecchio said she wants the board to take up the issue again. She says she has additional information and believes some of the information she had based her decision on before was not correct.

“I think I can make a better decision,” she said.

Board members Anthony Shea and Brian Ravotti said they want coaches to appear and state where they stand.

“If you're on board, tell me you're on board” with moving to the Heritage Conference, Ravotti said. “Man up, is what I'm saying.”

Full-day kindergarten

The school board next week may vote to buck the recommendations of administrators and offer a full-day kindergarten option beginning this fall.

The board has been discussing offering full-day kindergarten along with its half-day program as part of its 2013-14 budget discussion. The focus has been on how to offer a full-day program without needing a tax increase to pay for it.

Principal Matthew Kruluts said administrators are recommending the district stay with half-day kindergarten because class sizes with a full-day option would be too large.

The district now has 64 students enrolled for kindergarten.

With half-day only, it would have four classes of 16 students each.

If the district offers one full-day class and two half-day classes, they would have 21 to 22 students each, which Kruluts said is too many.

Board member Anthony Shea is adamant in wanting the district to offer full-day kindergarten, saying he wants to pull the district out of the “dark ages.”

While Shea said most of the state's school districts offer full-day kindergarten, Kruluts said many are reverting to half-day as funding for it dries up.

The district had previously surveyed parents about which program they prefer. Results found them split evenly, 16-16, for full or half day; another 10 wanted both.

District officials will contact parents of incoming kindergarten students to find out how many would actually choose to enroll their children in a full-day program.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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