Charleroi Area likely to approve gas contract
The Charleroi Area School Board is expected to permit the lease of its 55-acre property to natural gas producer EQT Corp. at a meeting next week, board President Ken Wiltz said.
The agreement would allow EQT to conduct horizontal drilling on portions of district land. The lease would result in much-needed revenue for the district. Should drilling be conducted, the district would receive royalties from gas produced, Wiltz said after Tuesday's informational meeting.
Charleroi Area solicitor Seth Tongchinsub said he could not release the duration or financial specifics of the contract until it's finalized. Wiltz said he expects the contract terms to be settled by Feb. 25.
Wiltz added that the lease is part of a larger project EQT is undertaking that involves 660 acres in Fallowfield and Carroll Townships. Wiltz insisted the wellhead will not be located on district property.
“We won't act until we get the blessing from their attorneys and our attorney. They're still going over details of the land lease and royalties,” Wiltz said. “We hope this ends up being a good deal for the school district and its taxpayers.”
Acting Superintendent Reid Smith said the district will alter its academic calendar for the remainder of this school year and the 2014-2015 school year.
Because of seven weather-related cancellations so far, the school year will be extended to June 10, the day commencement ceremonies will be conducted.
Commencement was initially scheduled for June 5, but will be pushed back five days because the make-up days (June 5, 6, and 9) are sandwiched around a weekend (June 7 and 8).
“We checked to make certain we'd be able to make the diplomas and sign the diplomas, so there are no issues I'm aware of,” Smith said.
Smith said the district has already used two makeup days – Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day – and will conduct classes on the Thursday prior to Easter and the Monday after Easter — April 17 and 21 respectively. The latter two days were originally included in the district's spring break.
Smith said that next year, the calendar will be synchronized with that of the Mon Valley Career & Technology Center in Speers, to prevent students who attend classes there and at Charleroi Area from missing days.
The most significant change will occur around the Thanksgiving holiday and at Christmas break.
Smith said that next year, students will have class the day before Thanksgiving, but two vacation days will be added to the end of Christmas break, which will run Dec. 24 through Jan. 5.
The first day of school will be Aug. 25, which matches the technology center schedule. The changes were made at the request of administrators and teachers, Smith said.
“This year, there were some days lost at the vo-tech school because they weren't similar calendars with ours,” Smith said.
“When we were off school, most of the time, the tech students wouldn't go there. The other problem is, when the vo-tech is not in session and we are, it's the same way.
“That's been a problem for years, so we've made some changes so those students will not miss instructional time.”
Another change will be conducting a parent-teacher conference day on Nov. 10, so students can have back-to-back off days that include Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
“We had parent conferences scheduled for Thursday, so with Veterans Day falling on a Tuesday, we'd have a day of school Monday, Wednesday and Friday and there'd be no rhythm or consistency to that,” Smith said.
Smith said the five regularly-scheduled staff development days can be implemented by his replacement.
Staff development days require students to attend half a day of class, after which teachers plan programs and work on curriculum.
Charleroi Area is seeking a replacement for former Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko.
After the Charleroi Area board opened Ferko's position, he left in December for a similar job in the Sharpsville Area School District in Mercer County.
Wiltz has said he hopes to have a replacement hired by June.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2635.