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Science classes revamp likely in Greater Latrobe

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Students in the Greater Latrobe School District will likely return in the fall to science classes that have been overhauled.

School directors discussed the new Science Fusion program at Tuesday's committee meeting.

Teachers and administrators were doing a routine review of the science curriculum and decided it was time for a change. They wanted to make sure all students are fully prepared to take biology in ninth grade and wanted a curriculum to achieve that. “What's the best way to prepare our kids to get them ready for that ninth-grade bio course?” asked Mike Porembka, director of teaching and learning.

The district buys individual packs for laboratory-based science instruction, but teachers wanted a curriculum that would include more instructional material alongside lab activities.

The district will pay about $199,000 for Harcourt School Publisher's Science Fusion program, which will be used for students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We wanted to increase the rigor of our science program,” said science teacher A.J. Haberkorn, who helped select the new program.

Science Fusion includes a large digital and online component, according to Haberkorn, and spreads out its subject matter rather than focusing on a single subject at a time.

Until now, students in grades 6-8 have spent the entire school year studying a single branch of science. Under the new program, the year will be split into thirds, covering aspects of life science, earth and space, and physical science.

The board will vote on whether to implement the curriculum next week.

In other business, business administrator Daniel Watson confirmed a likely tax increase of about $26 per homeowner.

As the board has discussed, the district faces a $1.5 million budget increase this year, $1.1 million of which comes from rising retirement benefits costs.

Although revenue has risen, the district still faces a shortfall of about $300,000 because no additional state or federal aid is expected.

The board plans to cover the deficit with a real estate tax increase of 1 mill, which will raise about $335,000.

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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