Greater Latrobe school year's start will conflict with Westmoreland Fair
Greater Latrobe students participating in the Westmoreland Fair in August may have to adjust their plans after the school board approved an earlier than usual start to the school year.
New Alexandria Ag 4-H Club leader Todd Frescura told the board of his concerns regarding the school calendar after it was announced that classes will begin on Aug. 21.
The fair is scheduled for Aug. 15-23, and about 70 Greater Latrobe students of all ages are a part of the 4-H Club program, Frescura said.
“This is where they sell their livestock animals, and if they do not complete their 4-H year, they can't get credit for their 4-H year,” he said.
Superintendent Judith Swigart said classes will begin that Thursday and Friday in order to hold orientation before a full week of instruction prior to the Labor Day holiday.
“As much as we recognize the state testing doesn't drive everything we do, we want to get as much instruction in as we possibly can prior to that,” she said.
Any student whose parents notify the school can be accommodated for fair events, Swigart said,
“This is, I believe, an educational program, one that obviously benefits our students and our community,” she said.
Swigart compared it with an instance a few years ago when class was scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and a parent preferred to take their child to an event celebrating the holiday.
“We of course made it clear that was not an absence,” she said. “It was certainly an excused time.”
The board and administrators were aware of the fair dates when making the calendar, she said, and had no intention of not honoring the hard work of the students who participate.
Frescura said later during public comments that he believes other calendar adjustments could have been made to accommodate the students for the fair, including 19 days scheduled for Christmas break.
Other school districts, including Norwin and Penn-Trafford — which plan to start Aug. 19 and 21, respectively — are beginning during the Westmoreland Fair, Swigart noted.
The first day of the 2014-15 school year at Derry Area is Aug. 26, which was approved at that district's March 6 school board meeting.
Derry Area board President Dave Krinock said that because of the focused agricultural program there, the district makes an effort to eliminate any conflicts with the fair.
“We do have a lot of students who show more than one animal, and we know that's a very important deal for them,” he said. “We did eliminate a couple extra days off around Christmas for fear of snow days. We don't want our kids going to school longer than they need to be, nor do I feel Latrobe feels the Westmoreland Fair is unimportant. I know they don't.”
At Greater Latrobe's meeting, board members approved the calendar in a 7-2 vote. Directors Merle Musick and William Mohler opposed the measure.
Mohler said he disagreed with the planned half-days or three two-hour late-start days in the calendar.
He would prefer students get a full day of instruction, even on weather-delayed days, Mohler said.
Without delays, 7 to 8 more snow days would have pushed the current year to much later in June, Swigart said. The school year ends on June 10.
“This winter by far, we have had more than we normally have, so it's stretched everyone's patience thin, including the administrative staff as far as making those decisions,” she said.
In a separate vote, Mohler also opposed a measure to apply to the state Department of Education for two Act 80 days for junior high school students on June 9 and 10 to allow construction contractors to begin projects on the front entrance and hallway of the school.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.