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Southmoreland reconsiders kindergarten

| Friday, April 11, 2003

Southmoreland school directors voted Thursday to consider reinstating a half-day kindergarten class that was eliminated last fall at Ruffsdale Elementary School.

The vote came after a request by Ruffsdale PTA President Josie Kauffman that the board consider reinstating not only the kindergarten class, but also two other elementary classes that were moved out of Ruffsdale last fall due to declining enrollments.

Kauffman said that fewer students, and thus parents, at the school have made it difficult for the PTA to raise funds for the various programs, assemblies, parties, T-shirts and other things the group provides for the Ruffsdale students.

Kauffman said the PTA found it necessary to conduct four fund-raisers this year instead of the usual two in order to meet its $13,000 budget, pointing out one assembly could cost between $400 and $500.

"The cost is the same whether we have 10 students or 100," Kauffman said.

In casting the only dissenting vote on the motion, Director Levi Miller said, "I find it problematic moving ahead of a recommendation by the administration."

Superintendent Dr. John Halfhill told the board before the vote that no final decisions could be made until it is determined how many kindergarten students are registered for the 2003-04 school year.

John Molnar, director of elementary education, said it also will be necessary to see what happens in the state budget process before a decision is made on the number of classes that will be needed in each grade level.

The board last night got a first-hand look at the success generated by one of the district's newest initiatives, The Accelerated Reader Program.

Brian Miller, principal of Alverton and Ruffsdale elementary schools, explained the program to the board and then Kaidia Pickels, a third-grade student at Alverton Elementary, read aloud the book "Hedgie's Surprise" by Jan Brett.

After the reading, Pickels demonstrated how she and her fellow students take a computerized test each time they finish a book to measure their comprehension of the subject matter. Pickels achieved a perfect score on the test last night.

Miller said the program not only "fosters and encourages a love of reading," but it also gets parents involved and increases the use of the schools' libraries. Although the program is not mandatory, Miller said almost 100 percent of the schools' second-, third- and fourth- graders participate.

The most popular book among the students, Miller said, is Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham." Two other favorites: "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" and "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" by Laura Joffe Numeroff.

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