Armstrong graduation hanging on rest of winter

| Friday, March 14, 2014, 12:26 a.m.

Administrators and high school seniors throughout the Armstrong School District are hoping March goes out like a lamb because more severe weather could force postponement of graduation ceremonies in June.

“Our graduation date all depends upon the polar vortex and jet streams,” said Jon Fair, the district director of student transportation, child accounting and safe schools. “It may be pushed back if we miss any more days, but we'll have a better idea on if we need to move it in April.”

Meteorologists forecasted between two to four inches during the week, which didn't happen. The lack of winter weather kept Armstrong School District in session and on track to hold its annual commencement on June 10.

This week's forecast should be the last bit of heavy winter weather for the season, according to meteorologist Brad Rehak of the National Weather Service in Moon.

“It's not completely over, since it's not uncommon to see an inch or two of snow here and there into late April,” Rehak said. “But any more snow likely won't be heavy enough to close schools.”

The district has missed nine days because of bad weather. Four of the five days scheduled for spring break — starting April 17 — will be used as makeup days, leaving students off as scheduled on April 18, which is Good Friday. They will use May 23, which was to be a day off, and scheduled teacher in-service days on June 5, 6 and 9 as makeup days. The ninth day missed was made up in January.

State law requires students attend at least 180 days of class. Only the General Assembly can reduce the required number of school days, which has not been done since the winter of 1995-96.

If any more days are missed, the district could request approval from the state Department of Education to allow longer school days, or even to hold Saturday classes, to make up for the lost time without postponing graduation.

Officials are considering their options but have yet to request permission for longer days or Saturday sessions, said Superintendent Stan Chapp.

“At this point, it's too early to make that decision,” Chapp said. “We've got to get through March, but if we lose another day, we have to figure out a way to just tack it on.”

Board member Amy Lhote said moving the graduation date could inconvenience families who schedule get-togethers centered on the ceremony that require some relatives of students to travel long distances to get here.

“We can't change Mother Nature, but people have plans,” Lhote said.

Linda Trego, whose daughter Sarah is set to graduate from Ford City High School this year, said a postponed ceremony wouldn't affect her family's summer plans, but she hopes the date won't change.

“I just want to see her graduate as soon as possible, so she can get on with her summer,” Trego said. “If it gets delayed, we might end up having her graduation party before her actual graduation.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or

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