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Due date: When teaches, students are expected back

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 7:38 a.m.

Correction: Penn-Trafford was mistakenly omitted from the back-to-school list published Monday. Teachers will return to school Thursday and students will go back Aug. 30. What's new at Penn Trafford• This year, there will be an inquiry-based science program for middle school students and an economics course for high school seniors. Math curriculum that uses both traditional and contemporary instruction methods along with "hands-on" activities will be extended to students in grades 3-5. (08/23/2004 at 9:50 p.m.)

Students may bury their report cards deep in their backpacks, but in some local school districts it won't matter: Parents can use the Internet to check up on their children's grades.

This year, parents of Mt. Pleasant Area Junior-Senior High School students can keep an eye on student progress throughout the school year, not just at report-card time.

Using Web-based software called "Class Roll," Mom or Dad can visit a Web site, tap in Junior's access number and find out whether he's making the honor roll or just squeaking by.

"I think it will be a motivating factor," said Michael Picarsic, director of elementary and secondary education. "I think it will open up lines of communication so everyone's on the same page."

Charleroi Area School District has used the "Class Roll" program at its high school for the past several years and will be expanding it to the middle school this year.

"I think we'll see positive changes," Superintendent Brad Ferko said.

In addition to keeping parents informed, the software also may help to spot struggling students, he added. "The ability to ... see how a student is doing rather than waiting until the end of the nine weeks (grading period) is a definite benefit."

Geibel Catholic High School, in Connellsville, is working to put a similar system in place. Teachers will use it this year to monitor and track students' grades, but parents will have to wait.

"There is a lot of information that needs to be put into it," said Brian Casey, development director for the school. "I can't see parents using it this school year."

He is optimistic, though, about the future of the project.

"It's going to give parents an advantage in tracking their child's progress," Casey said. "They will also be able to review their (tuition) account."

Schools throughout the region are preparing for a new school year. Officials have announced these starting dates and new programs:

BELLE VERNON AREA

Teachers start: Wednesday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Technology at the high school has been upgraded with new wiring, a new computer work station for each teacher, and televisions and videocassette recorders in selected classrooms. The district also hired four secondary school teachers.

BLAIRSVILLE-SALTSBURG

Teachers start: Friday

Students start: Sept. 1

What's new: A Web-based system will be used to contact substitute teachers in this Indiana County district, and substitutes will use the Internet to let district officials know when they are available to work.

BROWNSVILLE AREA

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Renovations at the middle school in this Fayette County district will be finished by the start of classes, officials said. The district will institute math and reading "academies" in the elementary and middle schools, as well as "Head Sprout" and "Imagination Station" programs designed to prepare elementary students for learning. An integrated math curriculum will be used at the high school. The district is adding five computer labs and using a new system to manage records.

BURRELL

Teachers start: Aug. 30

Students start: Sept. 1

What's new: The curriculum has been completely revised, officials said, and every course outline has been realigned to meet state standards. In addition, new social studies textbooks have been ordered for grades K-12.

CHARLEROI AREA

Teachers start: Today

Students start: Thursday

What's new: The district will expand the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, a set of standardized tests designed to measure reading skills, to include third grade. Elementary schools will partner with J.K. Tener Library, in Charleroi, making the library's computers available to students and their parents for school work. New computer labs will be available at the high school and the middle school, where Cognitive Tutor, a computer-based math program, will be used. A developmental reading program for eighth-graders will debut, and a tutor has been hired to help high school students work on skills needed to make the transition to post-secondary education.

CONNELLSVILLE AREA

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: The district will offer full-day kindergarten in all eight of its elementary schools.

DERRY AREA

Teachers start: Today

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Bradenville Elementary school has been closed, and some kindergarten and first-grade classes will be held in Grandview Elementary. The district will implement full-day kindergarten in all elementary buildings and begin a Head Start program at Grandview. Students will have an opportunity for individualized education with two programs: "Plato," a software program for grades 3-12, and "Breakthrough to Literacy" for grades K-1.

FRANKLIN REGIONAL

Teachers start: Today

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: The district is realigning its elementary schools to better utilize space. Kindergarten and first-grade students will attend Newlonsburg Elementary; Heritage Elementary will house grades 2-5. The district will offer full-day kindergarten and teachers are being trained for a collaborative math and science program. Improvements to the district's Web site and wireless computer capabilities also are under way.

FRAZIER

Teachers start: Tuesday

Students start: Aug. 31

What's new: New furniture and tiling have been installed in elementary, middle and high schools. At the middle school, this Fayette County district has added a mobile computer lab utilizing 25 laptops with wireless Internet access.

GEIBEL CATHOLIC

Teachers start: Wednesday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: The "Stewardship Through Service" program will require all students at the Connellsville school to complete 36 hours of community service during the school year. Renovations at the athletic complex and girls softball field will continue.

GREATER LATROBE

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: All district building projects have been completed and students will return to schools that are not under construction for the first time in several years. The district hired 26 new teachers for the 2004-05 school year.

GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC

Teachers start: Wednesday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Five teachers have been hired to accommodate increased enrollment. The new athletic facility will be ready for the fall sports season. Installation of a video conference center will begin this year; eventually students may use it to take college-level courses, and teachers may offer classes to students at other schools.

GREENSBURG SALEM

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: All freshmen will take a seminar course to ease their transition to high school; lessons will cover study skills and career management, as well. An inquiry-based science program that focuses on "hands-on learning" will be expanded to include students in grades K-6 this year.

HEMPFIELD AREA

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 31

What's new: A new language arts curriculum encompassing reading, writing and spelling will be used for all students this year. "Capacity training," which teaches students to asses their own performance and produce better quality work, will be offered in the middle and high schools. A weekly technology class will teach keyboarding and word-processing skills to fourth- and fifth-graders.

HOMER-CENTER

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Lunch prices have increased by 15 cents, raising the price to $1.40 for elementary students and to $1.60 for junior-senior high schoolers in this Indiana County district. A new guidance counselor will be filling a vacancy at the junior-senior high and a learning support teacher will join the high school staff. A running track between the high school and middle school may be used by both the track team and the public this year.

INDIANA AREA

Teachers start: Aug. 30

Students start: Sept. 1, high school and elementary schools; Sept. 20, junior high school

What's new: Junior high students will start late because of delays in a renovation project at the Indiana County school. Those students will have to make up 12 school days during the 2004-05 school year. Junior high sports programs will not be affected, school officials said.

JEANNETTE

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Three teachers will join the district this year, in second grade, high school math and elementary art. A statistics course has been added at the high school. And by reorganizing the staff and adding personnel, the district has reduced the average class size for students in grades K-3.

KISKI AREA

Teachers start: Aug. 30

Students start: Sept. 1

What's new: The district will offer full-day kindergarten this year. Fifteen new teachers and three principals have joined the staff.

LAUREL HIGHLANDS

Teachers start: Today

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Kennedy Elementary has been closed and students are being assigned to either Hutchinson or Marshal Elementary. More than two dozen senior high students will participate in new "academy" programs, one in finance and one in hospitality and tourism. Sponsored by the National Academy Foundation, the programs will help students to find internships and gain experience in those areas.

LIGONIER VALLEY

Teachers start: Today

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: The district will offer full-day kindergarten. Nine new teachers, a nurse for Laurel Valley Elementary and Middle School, and an ROTC Air Force instructor have been hired.

MONESSEN

Teachers started: Thursday

Students start: Today

What's new: The district expects to have most renovation projects completed for the start of classes today. Equipment in the kitchens and fieldhouse has been upgraded, and a roof was replaced at the elementary center. A revamped guidance suite to serve middle and high school students was created in a former home economics classroom. At least three vacant teaching positions have been filled, and a number of literacy programs are being introduced.

MT. PLEASANT AREA

Teachers start: Wednesday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Computer courses have been added at the junior-senior high school, and junior-senior high students will use Palm Pilots to organize data in science classes. The accelerated reader program in grades 7-8 will be expanded, and a new reading series will be used in elementary schools.

NEW KENSINGTON-ARNOLD

New teachers start: Thursday

All teachers start: Friday

Students start: Aug. 31

What's new: The district has purchased 100 computers and has added software to help students prepare for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. Math tutors have been hired for the middle school and high school. Reading programs in grades 9-10 have been expanded. Stadium renovations that have been ongoing for the past two years are expected to be done before the first football game.

NORWIN

Teachers start: Tuesday

Students start: Thursday

What's new: Thirty-three faculty members will join the staff. A full-day kindergarten class will be offered in each K-4 elementary building. Tutoring for grades 5-9 has been expanded, and most teachers have completed laptop training. A mobile computer lab has been added at the middle school, and additional computers will be installed for grades 3-6. At Scull and Stewartsville elementaries, wireless connectivity will provide expanded access to technology. The "WeatherNet" program, currently offered at the middle school, will expand to the high school. Middle school renovations should be completed by August 2005.

PENN TRAFFORD

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: This year, there will be an inquiry-based science program for middle school students and an economics course for high school seniors. Math curriculum that uses both traditional and contemporary instruction methods along with "hands-on" activities will be extended to students in grades 3-5.

RINGGOLD

Teachers start: Monday

Students start: Wednesday

What's new: The Washington County district has replaced 20 of its 27 teachers who retired this year, and a number of administrators have been reassigned. The district will start a new primary mathematics program designed to improve scores on the PSSA.

SOUTHMORELAND

Teachers start: Thursday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: The district will offer full-day kindergarten and will continue the initial phases of renovating the elementary and junior high school.

UNIONTOWN AREA

Teachers start: Friday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: Full-day kindergarten will be offered in this Fayette County district. Kindergarten classes for Lafayette and Ben Franklin Elementary students will be held at the new Uniontown Kindergarten Center on Iowa Street, across from the public library. Deborah Rittenhouse, elementary curriculum coordinator, will move from the central administration office to the center and serve as an administrator there. Kindergarteners will undergo academic screening as classes begin, and they will begin guided reading in September rather than January.

YOUGH

Teachers start: Wednesday

Students start: Aug. 30

What's new: The former middle school principal, John Janos, will serve as elementary coordinator and principal for Henry W. Good Elementary School. Former middle school Assistant Principal Thomas Paterline will move to the principal's office. William Lee was hired as technology coordinator, and grant money will be used to update software for struggling students. An early childhood education grant was used to hire personnel and reduce the number of students in kindergarten classes. Construction begins this fall at the middle school, where a new auditorium and additional classrooms are planned.

Tribune-Review reporters Leann Frola, Cassandra Smolcic, Emily Beaver and Mike Maslanik contributed to this report.

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