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Hempfield Area School Board considers abolishing Crossroads alternative education program, cutting more

| Sunday, March 17, 2013, 11:58 p.m.

As the Hempfield Area School Board prepares its 2013-14 budget, directors are considering abolishing Crossroads, an alternative educational program, and looking at other possible program cuts, Superintendent Andy Leopold said.

In January, the district voted to close Bovard Elementary School and last year phased out the Road Less Traveled, another alternative program.

“We have to look at programs and what it costs us. It's a good program, and it pains me to have to look at it,” Leopold said of Crossroads.

School directors last week instructed Leopold to look at programs that could be cut before business manager Jude Abraham presents the new spending plan that likely will require a 1.5-mill tax increase, which would increase revenue by $900,000, he said.

Abraham said he will present more details on the budget when the board meets Monday evening.

Two areas that are not on the chopping block — at least for now — are academics and athletic teams, Leopold said.

When the school board last year proposed eliminating ninth-grade sports, an outcry from parents forced the board to reconsider. There was more public opposition when the board considered making cuts in several academic areas.

Leopold said he will review sport-related areas such as coaches' salaries, transportation costs and the number of games teams play each year as potential areas for cost savings.

“Academic programs are not necessarily at the top of the list,” Leopold said. “We've done a pretty thorough job over the past couple of years.”

Leopold said it costs taxpayers about $700,000 a year to operate Crossroads, which serves 22 students from Hempfield, Jeannette, Norwin, Franklin Regional and Mt. Pleasant Area school districts, which pay a fee for their students to attend the alternative school. The students do not fit into a normal classroom environment, are chronic truants or cause disciplinary problems.

Abraham said the district receives nearly $300,000 in revenue from other districts.

Any savings from closing Crossroads would be offset by the cost of sending Hempfield students to other alternative programs such as Adelphoi or Agape.

When the school board voted to close Bovard, Hempfield was required by the state to hold a public hearing before the school could be closed.

Leopold said that is not a requirement for closing Crossroads because it is an educational program within the district and not a school.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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