McKeesport Area School District upgrades school security, student nutrition program
McKeesport Area School District officials say their top priority is the safety of the approximately 3,800 students enrolled for the 2014-15 school year.
To that end, the district will use Raptor, the nation's leading visitor-management system for school security.
Machines were installed and tested in each building and are ready for the start of classes on Wednesday.
“Whenever anybody comes to volunteer or go into a classroom, they have to scan their driver's license or another approved form of ID,” district spokeswoman Kristen Davis said. “It will tell us right then and there if the person is a child predator or has anything that would forbid them to enter a school.”
The machine prints out a tag or visitor pass if the background check clears.
“They've been in place now for about a month or so,” Davis said. “This just ensures another way we can keep (students) safe each day.”
Audio and video will be recorded on buses this year. Silent video long has been the law for state education officials responsible for doling out discipline on matters involving behavior on school buses.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill in February allowing districts to record audio, provided local school board policies allow it.
McKeesport Area school directors adopted such a policy in May, and Pennsylvania Coach Lines modified its equipment to record audio.
Student nutrition is the next item on McKeesport Area's plate.
All breakfasts and lunches this year and possibly the next three years will be free, thanks to a new program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently introduced a Community Eligibility Provision for the National School Lunch Program offered through the department's Food and Nutrition Service. The four-year program provides free meals in districts or schools in which at least 40 percent of the students are deemed to be directly certified for free or reduced-price lunches.
Those are students whose families do not submit applications for free or reduced-price meals, but instead are deemed eligible directly by the state because they receive food stamp benefits, medical assistance or other government aid.
“I think it's going to help out our families,” Davis said. “They'll be able to save a bit of money, and it will ensure that all of our students are never hungry during the school day.”
The district and its food service management company, Nutrition Inc., applied for the USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. It provides healthy snacks to children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
The goal is to enhance awareness of food varieties and keep students full throughout the day.
“It's supposed to be a food experience,” Davis said. “They're going to try and introduce students to different fruits and vegetables that they may not have tried before.”
The district has hired a new high school culinary arts teacher.
Jeffrey Richardson, 37, of Jeannette starts his first teaching job this week. His wife, Michelle, is a 12-year McKeesport Area High School English teacher.
Richardson said he is ready to educate students on nutrition and having a colorful diet.
“It's a mix of emotions,” he said. “You're really excited, but you're still a little nervous. It's a good nervous if that makes sense. It's a lot to take in, but I'm really excited to jump right in.”
He started in the culinary field at age 16. He worked his way up from a dishwasher at DeNunzio's Italian Restaurants in Jeannette to become the executive chef at the Monroeville location for the past 10 years.
He studied culinary arts at Westmoreland Community College and worked other food jobs along the way.
“I know a lot of stuff and I think it will be nice to help other people,” Richardson said. “I try to share the passion that I have in the field and pass that along to others.”
Richardson and his students will operate the district's restaurant, Tiger Inn.
Other additions include a new SMALLab — Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Lab — at Twin Rivers Intermediate School.
It is an interactive room where the floor turns into an educational gaming area, and students can learn kinetically using the latest technology.
Founders' Hall received a lab last year. It was the first district building to have one.
More information about the district and its programs is available online at www.mckasd.net.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.