Jeannette School Board holds line on taxes

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:05 p.m.

The Jeannette School Board formally adopted the 2013-14 budget Monday and the spending plan includes no tax increase.

Earlier this spring, the board considered a 1-mill tax increase, but ultimately passed a budget that cut overall spending.

The $17.3 million budget carries a millage rate of 82.72 mills. More than $60,000 was cut from the budget since the draft version was approved in May.

Any additional funds freed up by those cuts will be moved to the budgetary reserve fund. As it stands now that amount will be slightly more than $200,000 and is considered a contingency fund.

Superintendent Matthew Hutcheson has said the contingency fund is important to the district because it may be necessary to use that money if the state budget trims the amount Jeannette expects to receive. The money is also used for potential cyber school costs to the district.

In the various versions of the state budget that have been presented, Jeannette could receive an increase in state funding ranging from $90,000 to $125,000 over what the district received last year. If those figures change drastically, the district's contingency fund may be used to make up any shortfall.

School start, end times to change

The board also voted this week to change the start and dismissal times for many students this fall.

This year, high school students can attend breakfast from 7:50 to 8:05 a.m. before school starts and students will be dismissed at 3:10 p.m. Hutcheson said this will expand the high school day by about 20 minutes.

The main changes were at the middle school level. Middle school breakfast will be from 7:50 to 8:05 a.m., which started nearly 30 minutes earlier in previous years. Dismissal will be at 2:45 p.m.

At the elementary, students in third through fifth grades will have breakfast from 8:20 to 8:40 a.m. and will be dismissed at 3:15 p.m. Students in morning kindergarten through second grades will have breakfast from 8:50 to 9:05 a.m.

Morning kindergarten will be dismissed at 12:45 p.m. Afternoon kindergarten will begin their days with lunch at 12:15 p.m.

Afternoon kindergartners, first- and second-graders will be dismissed at 3:45 p.m.

This move will stagger the bussing schedule at the beginning and ends of each days, which Hutcheson said was one goal for this change.

But, the main goal, he said, is to eliminate most two-hour delays by changing the start times.

The district's bus routes are also being reviewed and changes are likely. The district is looking to streamline some routes, avoid some one-way streets and make the runs more efficient.

Those changes will be printed in an upcoming edition of The Jeannette Spirit once they are approved.

Attendance changes coming

The board plans to approve a new attendance policy at its July 15 voting meeting.

The board has been discussing making the attendance policy more strict since the early part of this year when administrators said there was an increase in the number of students who were in danger of not graduating or moving on to the next grade level.

The policy was revised last summer and the amount of days a student was permitted to be absent from school was lowered from 30 to 20 days.

A new rule, known as “sanctions,” enabled students with 20 or more days to make up “in-seat” time on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Each Saturday session removed one absence from a student's record. It was not instructional time and normal classes weren't held during those hours, but students were required to accumulate work throughout the week from their teachers and then finish that work during the Saturday session.

At the high school, the attendance policy has been that if a student has any absences beyond 10 days in a given school year, the student needs to present a medical excuse.

Essentially, a student can miss up to 10 days without a medical excuse and up to 10 days with such an excuse, but once a student's total reaches 20 absences they face severe repercussions.

Earlier this year, board president Joseph Yorio said there is a chance the board will vote this summer to lower the total number of absences even further. He also said the board would look into other penalties for students who miss too much school, such as fining parents and suspending students' driver's licenses.

The board is likely to vote on any changes to the attendance policy at the July 15 meeting at 8 p.m. in the administration building.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-838-5154.

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