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School board looks at graduation requirements, renovation options

| Friday, Feb. 8, 2002

SCOTTDALE - Southmoreland School Board members tackled the issues of graduation requirements and building renovations at Thursday's work session.

Superintendent John Kenney reported that, beginning in the 2002-2003 school year, state law requires school districts to prove graduates have met state educational standards with a level of proficiency or above by taking the PSSA test or by local standards aligned to the reading, writing and mathematics state standards.

Kenney presented a proposed policy to the board that would allow students the option of taking the PSSA test or demonstrating proficiency by achieving a grade of C or better in College Prep (CP) courses.

The proposed policy would define reading proficiency as a grade of C or better in four years of CP English classes. Proficiency in writing would be proven by achieving a grade of C or higher on three essays - informational, narrative and persuasive - in a junior year CP English class.

Proficiency in mathematics would mean the student completed algebra, geometry and one additional sequential math course with a C or higher.

Kenney arrived at the alternative to the PSSA test by looking at last year's PSSA scores:

  • Of 73 math students who were proficient or higher, 67 had taken algebra, geometry and one additional math course, and of CP English students, 46 out of 66 scored at proficient or better on the test.

  • All CP English students were determined to be proficient or higher.

    Kenney said the proposed policy would mean a more rigorous curriculum for about 40 percent of Southmoreland students.

    As the state law is written now, without an additional system of measuring proficiency, granting diplomas would have to be based on PSSA test results alone.

    Learning support students who have Individual Education Programs are exempt from the requirement.

    Issues raised included the fairness of the situation created by the law, if any provisions could be made to designate performance in academic or vocational classes as proficient, and if the PSSA test would determine graduation for current juniors and seniors.

    The issue is on the agenda for the curriculum committee to investigate further.

    Regarding building renovations, the board invited R. Kay Thompson, principal of Eckles Architecture of New Castle to discuss two options for facilities for elementary and junior high students.

    The first option, a "3-3-3" option, would use three buildings each for three grades - Alverton for kindergarten to second grade, Ruffsdale for third to sixth grades and SES as a middle school for sixth to eighth grades.

    The second option would place kindergarten and first grade at Alverton, second to fifth grades at SES and sixth to eighth grades at a newly constructed middle school. This option leaves Ruffsdale Elementary empty; the board discusses the possibility of making it a new administration building.

    Thompson said his proposals would include all work necessary to bring existing buildings up to standards.

    The board requested that Thompson's proposals include office suites for each building be moved to the front for security purposes, that provisions for computer technology be installed in each facility, ample room for buses and cars to load and park, a maintenance facility near the present junior high and to have the option to include or delete such features as full gyms or an auditorium for the middle school.

    Estimated prices also need to reflect a package sewage treatment plant for the Alverton complex, and a sewage treatment plant for Ruffsdale Elementary if the building will be used.

    Thompson requested another meeting with administrators to get a more in-depth look at programs at the schools; the building and grounds committee will call a meeting in March to meet with Thompson.

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