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Leechburg Area school board to consider allowing full-time enrollment at Lenape Tech

| Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, 12:06 a.m.

The school board will vote in March whether to allow Leechburg Area High School students to enroll full time again at Lenape Tech, its vocational school in Manor Township.

In October 2012, Leechburg Area become Lenape's only partner district that restricted its students to half-days at the vocational school.

Board members feared full-time enrollment at Lenape hindered the students' access to a well-rounded education and fretted over its tuition costs, said board President Jean Stull, who voted against the measure.

The decision allowed students who were already enrolled full time to finish out their high school years as full-time students at Lenape.

The class of 2017 is the first prohibited from exploring the full-time option.

Students from Leechburg Area, Freeport Area, Apollo-Ridge and Armstrong school districts are restricted to half-day enrollment until 11th or 12th grade.

Whether Leechburg Area students will be able to make that choice hinges on the board's vote next month, which was brought up at Stull's request.

“It's not fair to these kids to prevent them from pursuing an educational environment where they can thrive because of money,” she said.

The district is spending $524,000 this year on tuition for its full-time and half-day students at Lenape. Were all those students restricted to half-day enrollment, tuition costs would fall to $305,000.

“Lenape is a phenomenal program and they do amazing work” said Carlotta Del Vecchio, board vice president. “But how can we not seriously discuss an issue worth $200,000 with the budget being the way it is.”

The district has 38 full-time Lenape students in 11th and 12th grade. There are 15 part-time students among its 11th- and 10th-grade students.

One of them is sophomore Nicholas Yerjevich, who lobbied the board Thursday to allow full-time enrollment at Lenape, where he is studying culinary arts.

“I feel like I miss out on a lot of things I could be learning at Lenape, and I'm left out of a lot of things at Leechburg,” he said. “The things I want to do are at Lenape, and the bus ride in the middle of the day is difficult to adjust to.”

Board member Kathy Vargo estimated that part-time Lenape students spend 150 hours a school year riding a bus. Lukacs did not have Lenape transportation cost figures available on Thursday.

Prazenica alluded to cuts in state education in recent years as the source behind funding woes, which breed “difficult choices.”

“I don't envy these board members,” he said. “The money just isn't coming in the way it used to.

“You see it all across the state: districts are turning to local revenues and are presented with exceedingly difficult circumstances. It's tough.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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