The Conewago Valley school board heard promising updates from administration and school leaders during the board’s meeting on Monday evening. Administrators praised district staff for focusing on training and preparations for the upcoming school year over the summer. Christopher Bowman, principal of New Oxford High School, praised the custodial and office teams, saying the buildings are ready for students. “I know the cleaning process is extensive, and our buildings are not, by any stretch of the imagination, new, but when you walk into our building, they’re pretty pristine,” Bowman said. “They look amazing.” Stephanie Corbin, director of special education, said the training and collaboration by staff will mean there are more resources for students. “It kind of gives me goosebumps just to think about what we’re going to be able to hopefully do and to support even more of our students throughout this upcoming school year,” Corbin said. Christopher Cobb, principal of New Oxford Elementary School, and Autumn Zaminski, principal of Conewago Township Elementary, said they worked to continue the tradition of visiting incoming kindergarten students at home. They also praised staff for preparing for the coming school year, but Cobb cautioned that the planned new playground may be temporarily stalled. “Unfortunately, the supply chain issue has hit metals, plastics and paints for our playground system, so there is a slight delay right now,” Cobb said. He promised to continue to follow up on the situation. Superintendent Sharon Perry said she appreciates seeing the efforts of the staff and faculty as they prepare to welcome new and returning students. “One of my favorite parts of this time of the school year is watching everybody pull together to bring back our young Colonials,” Perry said. Perry said the district has a “phenomenal crew we’re bringing on board” and has focused on professional development as well as safety, both “emotional and physical.” Health and safety One person addressed the board with concerns about potential school violence, referencing the mass shooting in May at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The individual said they have created a safety app they are selling to schools. They offered a “small pilot” of the program to the Conewago Valley school district. “It runs on smartphones, and if you touch a button, everybody in administration knows what’s happening,” the person said. “Live audio/video is saved to the cloud for a chain of evidence and it’s sent to the parents and loved ones of the person that activated the product.” The board did not discuss the offer during the open portion of the meeting. Among other items, the board approved the 2022-23 Health and Safety Plan, which currently lists masks as optional. “The Conewago Valley School District will continue to monitor and review both CDC and PA Commonwealth guidance, mandates, and orders,” the plan states. “If required, students and staff will be reminded of the correct way to wear a mask and/or face shield.” Other items The board also approved the district’s 2022-25 Comprehensive Plan. Several new hires were also approved, including teachers, instructional aides, reading specialists, a high school nurse and more. The board recognized the achievements of the welding fabrication team that won first place at the SkillsUSA national competition recently held in Georgia. “Hopefully we have a team that’s ready to follow in their footsteps for this year,” Edward Groft, president of the school board, said. Executive sessions and future meetings Groft announced that the board discussed personnel issues in a closed session before the open meeting and would do so again after the open session. He said the board would likely hold another executive session during a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 15. The special meeting will be held to discuss a feasibility study by Crabtree and Rohrbaugh. It will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, earlier in the evening than the board’s typical meeting time. A committee of the whole study session will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12. The next regular public meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19. Meetings are held in the district board room and are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
The Fairfield Area school board approved the hire of several more employees on Monday evening, helping put the district in a strong position to begin the 2022-23 school year. The board approved hiring a handful of new teachers, a middle school counselor, a part-time special education aide, a part-time office aid and a coordinator of instructional technology. Those present during the meeting introduced themselves to the board. Lisa Sturges, the board’s legislative liaison, said she was grateful for the new employees as other districts struggle to hire enough employees. “Continued staffing shortages are throughout the commonwealth, but I did want to give a big shout-out to (Superintendent Thomas) Haupt and all of his administrative team for fulfilling our vacancies and making sure that we are going to have a great start to our year,” Sturges said. Sturges advised the board of updates at the state level, noting that the Pennsylvania Department of Education is releasing, “Finding Your Way in PA,” an app designed to help homeless students and their families find resources that can help them. Sturges added that the district also has the opportunity to apply for grants for mental health support. She said she was also happy to report that an investigation into Pennsylvania PSERS (Public School Employees’ Retirement System) resulted in no charges. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and PSERS leaders announced on Aug. 2 that the investigation had been closed. “So we can all breathe a sigh of relief, because that was worrying some of us when that first came out,” Sturges said. No one spoke during the time for public comment. The board held a closed session before the regular meeting in order to discuss personnel and legal issues, according to Jennifer Holz, president of the board. The board will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22 in the district board room. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel, Fairfield Area School District PA.
By Sara Edmiston, Public Services Director There are many benefits for those who decide to volunteer for an organization in their community. Yes, it allows them to give back and forge a connection to the community in which they live, but the act of volunteering can also be beneficial on a more personal level. It connects people to others, provides a sense of belonging, keeps a person stimulated, and it helps to build skills that may increase job opportunities. Volunteers are crucial to the success of the Adams County Library System, and we’re lucky to have a strong force county-wide that helps us to meet the demands for quality public service. So how do volunteers support the library system? Some of our volunteers assist us in planning and implementing special events and programming. FunFest would not have been a successful family event to kick off Summer Quest, without the volunteers who assisted with setup, parking, clean up, tear down and all of the other necessary parts of running a mini festival. They work behind the scenes by serving on committees such as the Adams County Reads One Book committee or the Signature Event committee. They plan story times and read to children. They give their time and knowledge to present on a topic that they have expertise in, or they assist their branch of choice by helping to lead book clubs. Without these volunteers, the library system would not be able to fulfill our mission of opening gateways for exploration. Many of our volunteers work behind the scenes alongside the staff and support the libraries in a million different ways. If you get a phone call for your hold notification, that might be a volunteer. The person you see pushing a cart of books or DVDs around your branch may be a volunteer pulling a rotation to send back to the main library – or they may be shelving recently returned library materials so that the next library user has the opportunity to borrow it. Volunteers prepare new books, audio books, and DVDs for public use. They tape paperbacks and put the plastic covers on the hardcover books. A volunteer may be in a back office working on data entry or assisting with filing. There’s a never ending list of volunteer opportunities available to someone who’s interested in helping out. The library system is very thankful for each volunteer. We know that without our volunteers we would not be able to serve the public as effectively as we are able to. Our volunteers don’t just help us with our needs, but they also show us where we should look to next. What services aren’t we providing that would benefit the community? Without their involvement and leadership, we wouldn’t be able to plan our next steps. If you’re interested in volunteering at any of the libraries in the county, please visit our website, www.adamslibrary.org. You’ll find a link to more information about the volunteer opportunities that we have under the “Support the Library” tab on the main page. You’ll also find more information about the Friends of the Library and opportunities that are available with them.
The Gettysburg Area School District will likely revise its 2022-23 budget to deal with an unexpected 6 percent ($687,000) increase in tax revenue from the state. The new funds will be used in large part for special education, transportation, and charter schools. Business manager Belinda Wallen said that, given the new funding, the district’s plan for an “insurance holiday” would no longer be in its best interests, and that it should instead make all 12 payments. The plan to make only 11 rather than 12 payments during the 2022-23 budget season was designed in part to reduce the need for a tax increase. Wallen said making all 12 payments would keep the district’s rates to a minimum. In her legislative report, board member Amy Beth Hodges said the overall state budget increase for education was $850 million, including substantial raises for special education and transportation. She called it a “historic school funding increase.” Board President Kenneth Hassinger asked Hodges to see if local legislators might be able to help solve the problem in which the district is required to to submit its annual budget before it knows how much funding it will get from the state. That requirement makes it difficult for districts to create accurate budgets. Superintendent Jason Perrin said the school re-opening is coming very quickly with staff returning on Aug. 17 and students on Aug. 22. The large HVAC system reconstruction that caused disruptions last year is expected to be completely finished before school opens. The district said it had standardized early release day times across the school year. Perrin reminded those interested in supporting GASD students that the 4th annual Gettysburg Area Educational Foundation Fundraiser, “Night at the Totem Pole Playhouse,” was still selling tickets. The event, which is a performance of “Footloose: The Musical,” will be held Wed. Aug 10 at 8:00 p.m. at the Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville. Click here for tickets. The board’s next regularly-scheduled meeting will be on Aug. 15 at 7:00 p.m.
While state officials are worried about Pennsylvania’s ongoing teacher shortage, school representatives in Fairfield Area School District say their district is in good shape. During the Fairfield school board’s meeting on Monday evening, the board focused on preparations for the 2022-23 school year. Superintendent Thomas Haupt told the board he hoped it would approve adding another kindergarten teacher during the next meeting. The district’s sixtieth kindergarten student signed up on Monday, and with three teachers, there are currently 20 students in each kindergarten classroom. Haupt noted that Gov. Tom Wolf approved the state’s budget on July 8, and that the state passed “pretty historic funding for education in this budget.” Sonja Brunner, assistant to the superintendent, told the board that Fairfield will host the county induction for teachers on Aug. 9. Fairfield will hold its district induction program from Aug. 8-11. Brunner said teachers will have activities and a bus tour of the district included in the program. According to Brunner, the district needs to hire up to two more paraprofessionals. Four new teachers were approved during the meeting and introduced themselves to the board. Kathryn Miller, Lily Kapfhammer, Kaitlin Martin and Emily Solalinde-Cernas will all work as elementary teachers. Legislative update Board member Lisa Sturges reiterated that Fairfield is lucky to have enough staff while the state is facing what it has called an “educator workforce crisis.” She thanked the teachers who choose to work in Fairfield. Sturges also noted that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has updated its guidelines to determine eligibility for free and reduced lunches for the upcoming school year. The guidelines are available here. Sturges also cited information recently published by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) designed to help schools, “fulfill their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline,” according to the release. The guidance encouraged districts to use American Rescue Plan funds to ensure they have enough staff and training to assist students with disabilities and mental health struggles. “The new resources reflect the concern, particularly in light of the prevalence of student mental health issues associated with the pandemic, that some students with disabilities are not receiving the supports and services necessary to address their educational needs, including their disability-based behavior,” the release states. Sturges said the information is encouraging and that she has heard from some people in the community who are concerned about children’s mental health as they prepare to go back to school. The board elected to make Lauren Clark the board secretary, retroactive to July 1. The term will go through June 30, 2025. The board will hold its next regular board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8. Meetings are held in the district board room and are posted on the district’s YouTube channel.
By Molly Griffith Most people I’ve met seem to think that libraries are calm and peaceful places, full of hushed whispers and gently turning pages. That’s the comment I get most when people learn I work at the Jean Barnett Trone Memorial Library of East Berlin, but from my experience, that image is very rarely accurate. Most of the time, our library is a bustling place, full of excitement, energy, and far from quiet. People of all walks of life are in and out everyday: picking up arrived items, browsing the shelves for their next read, checking out stacks of picture books or graphic novels or DVDs. That’s one of my main roles: scanning library cards and all the items that people want to take home with them, and one of my favorites. It’s fun to see what people are interested in and excited about. Sometimes it’s whole seasons of crime shows, or every children’s book we have about sharks, or the next book in that mystery series everyone has been talking about. Another thing that keeps me busy is hunting down items for our patrons, since our collection might not always contain exactly what folks are looking for. Sometimes, this is an easy fix, and I can simply request titles from other branches in the Adams County Library System. Other times, I get to request items from our neighbors at York County Library System, or even across the entire state of Pennsylvania. It’s like a puzzle sometimes, depending on what I’m looking for, because there might be different editions of a book, or different seasons of a show, and I have to be certain I’ve found the exact right one for our patrons. Programming is a huge part of what we do at the library as well, and something I’m super excited to be getting more involved in this coming fall. Previously, I’ve helped with adult events, specifically our Girls’ Craft Night Out, from planning and promotion to the actual occasion. However, starting in September, I’ll be hosting a Writer’s Group every third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Ages 16 and up are invited to discuss their creative projects and flex their writing muscles with some activities as well. If you’d like to join me, visit our website at www.adamslibrary.org/event/writers-group-1 to register. However, that’s far from representative of everything happening at the library. We offer programming, materials, and resources for all ages: babies, preschool and elementary age children, teens, and adults. Just about every night of the week there’s something happening here for someone, and I often get to be the face that welcomes them to the library. It’s another one of my favorite things to do, even if I’m not deeply involved with the programs themselves. Watching every kind of person come through our doors makes it so clear how huge of an impact libraries have on their communities. Especially during these summer months, the library is a busy, exciting place, full of opportunities and adventure, and I’m so glad to be a part of it. Featured Image: Trone Memorial Library of East Berlin [Dawn Smith]
leer en español Winners of this year’s Beatrice and Sigfried Lowenthal Scholarships for First and Second Generation Immigrants and their families gathered on the Gettysburg College campus on Wednesday evening to celebrate the awarding of over $56,000 in scholarship money to 34 first-generation students. The event, hosted by the college’s Casa de Cultura, included an award ceremony followed by a communal meal. The winning students included those just starting their college experience as freshmen as well as those finishing their degrees. Assistant Director for the Center for Public Service Brenda Reyes-Lúa congratulated the students and distributed the awards. The scholarship is funded by the Acts of Random Kindness (ARK) Foundation and the Mexican Consulate’s Mexican Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME) Becas program and administered by Casa de la Cultura. Applications for next year’s scholarships will be available next May on the Casa de Cultura website.
read in English Los ganadores de las Becas Beatrice y Sigfried Lowenthal de este año para inmigrantes de primera y segunda generación y sus familias se reunieron en el campus de Gettysburg College el miércoles por la noche para celebrar la entrega de más de $56,000 en becas a 34 estudiantes de primera generación. El evento, organizado por la Casa de Cultura de la universidad, incluyó una ceremonia de premiación seguida de una comida comunitaria. Los estudiantes ganadores incluyeron a los que recién comenzaban su experiencia universitaria como estudiantes de primer año, así como a los que terminaban sus títulos. La Subdirectora del Centro de Servicio Público Brenda Reyes-Lúa felicitó a los estudiantes y repartió los premios. La beca está financiada por la Fundación Acts of Random Kindness (ARK) y el programa Becas del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME) del Consulado de México y es administrada por la Casa de la Cultura. Las solicitudes para las becas del próximo año estarán disponibles el próximo mes de mayo en la página web de la Casa de Cultura.
According to statistics from Education Week, 2022 has already seen 27 school shootings with injuries and deaths in the U.S., with 83 people killed or injured. The grim tally includes the deaths of 24 children. School superintendents in the country’s 130,000 public and private schools are entrusted every school day to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for approximately 55 million elementary and secondary students. To learn how local districts meet the challenge, Gettysburg Connection talked with Littlestown Area School District Superintendent Christopher Bigger, Bermudian Springs School District Superintendent Dr. Shane Hotchkiss, and Gettysburg Area School District Superintendent Jason Perrin. “Safety has been a priority for many years; even prior to my tenure,” said Perrin. “We utilize a continuous improvement model, meaning we are always looking for reasonable and sustainable ways to maximize safety for our school community. We utilize external audits completed by third party vendors and by the PA State Police to assist in our improvement efforts.” The Pennsylvania Public School Code (Act 44) requires school districts to appoint school safety and security coordinators, establish mandatory school safety training for school employees, and establish standards for school police, resource officers, and security guards. Following Act 44, each district takes similar approaches to their daily safety procedures including both “hard” and “soft” techniques. On the “hard” side, districts have only a single point of entry to each building, require ID for entry, use security cameras, and hold evacuation and emergency protocol training for staff and students. But there is also a “soft side” that involves a focus on the mental health of students and faculty, as well as simply getting to know the students within the district. “The power of Littlestown safety is in the number of counselors and support staff we have,” said Bigger. “These prevention safety measures can allow us to know and intervene before something happens.” Bigger said Littlestown has a licensed social worker, licensed mental health therapist, and a psychologist that assist in providing daily assistance. “We contract services through Cognitive Health Solutions to provide the program and staffing using ESSERS federal COVID dollars,” Bigger said. “Students referred to the child study team in each building are analyzed for level of need and assigned an intervention based on staffing. Sometimes the classroom teacher or the school counselor implements a strategy.” Bermudian also has growing resources related to mental health. “We have a school counselor in each of our buildings and a counselor that moves between the middle and high school,” said Hotchkiss. “Additionally, we have had a substance abuse counselor for quite some time and have expanded her role in our district to include all buildings.” Bermudian additionally began utilizing Care Solice last year, which ensures that communities can reach reliable mental health services no matter the circumstances. As for the “hard” side of safety, Hotchkiss said Bermudian uses the “ALICE” program, provided by a third party, for safety training. ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. “We use ALICE as a tool. These are options and strategies for students and staff to utilize in an emergency,” said Hotchkiss. “We revisit these drills and practices during faculty meetings.” ALICE training includes modules appropriate for different grade levels, using storybooks, hands-on activities, worksheets, and other methods. The curriculum provides language and concepts to facilitate learning about stranger danger, assault, abduction, and abuse at an age-appropriate level. Each district also works within the state’s youth violence prevention program Safe2SayPA. The program, run by the state Attorney General’s office, teaches children to recognize warning signs and signals, especially on social media, from individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others and to “say something before it is too late.” Hotkchiss said the program allows students to anonymously report unsafe and potentially dangerous activities, and helps students and staff to be diligent and observant, and to ask questions. Bigger recalled how a large change in security measures occurred in Adams County following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “Post Parkland is when Adams County became much more conscious and consistent,” he said. “When Uvalde happened, we asked ourselves if we were still being consistent. We keep trying to get better every year.” Bigger said Littlestown is as “as prepared as possible to react in an emergency,” and has employed a school resource safety officer since 2018. “The officer leads staff training, follows through on safety improvements, and leads efforts to ensure student, staff, and family compliance with safety procedures,” said Bigger. “Since the hiring of a safety officer, our safety efforts have increased substantially, and we are maintaining the efforts deployed. For example, when we are required to perform safety drills the officer will coordinate the drills and then evaluate for improvement efforts.” “I think in trying to maintain an atmosphere conducive to learning, while providing security and safety, we are in a good spot,” said Hotchkiss. “I believe all of our current efforts are both reasonable and sustainable in a public school environment,” said Perrin. “We will always review our protocols and make adjustments as warranted to mitigate safety concerns.”
Vida Charter School has appointed Elana Nashelsky as the school’s first principal. Nashelsky joined the staff at Vida six years ago and has served as assistant principal since 2018, supporting the school through its recharter process comprehensive planning, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Nashelsky is a strong advocate for Vida’s vision of bilingualism, biliteracy, academic achievement, and cultural competency. She has a passion for and commitment to bilingual education, both as a practitioner and as a researcher, and is currently enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. Nashelsky received her Master’s in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her Bachelor’s from the University of California, Berkeley. In her new role Nashelsky will oversee school operations and administration while Executive Director Christine Miller will shift her focus to long-term strategic planning, community outreach and alumni relations. “Vida is an extraordinary resource in Adams County, unparalleled here in its commitment to rigorous and equity-centered instruction,” said Nashelsky. “I am thrilled to continue to do the work I am passionate about alongside such skillful and devoted colleagues, families, and community members.” Vida Charter School, located in Gettysburg, is the area’s only public bilingual charter school. Chartered in 2010, Vida now enrolls 220 students in kindergarten through grade 6 from nine school districts in Adams, Franklin and York counties. The school’s Dual Language model, providing instruction in both English and Spanish, allows students to develop proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, and listening in both languages, as well as a greater understanding of and appreciation for multiple languages and cultures. “Vida is so fortunate to have a talented, intelligent, passionate and supportive leader like Elana who continually seeks ways to make Vida a place of excellence for our staff, students and families,” Ms. Miller said. “I am confident Vida will thrive and grow under her leadership.” Vida is currently enrolling students for the 2022-2023 school year. For more information, visit www.vidacharterschool.com or find us on Facebook.
The Fairfield Area School District passed its final budget for the 2023-24 school year on Monday evening with no tax increases. The millage rate will remain at 11.1305. Even without a tax increase, the board still expects to have a surplus of $188,959. The approved budget includes revenues of $19,836,530 and expenditures of $19,647,571. While there won’t be any tax increases this year, the board did agree to raise the price of meals in the cafeteria. In its consent agenda, the board set the following cafeteria prices: Breakfast for elementary school students – $1.45 (formerly $1.25) Breakfast for middle school/high school students – $1.55 (not previously offered) Breakfast for adults – $2 (not previously offered) Lunch for elementary school students – $2.75 (formerly $2.65) Lunch for middle school/high school students – $2.95 (formerly $2.85) Lunch for adults – $4 (formerly $3.85) Business manager Tim Stanton and Superintendent Thomas Haupt encouraged the board during its meeting on May 9 to raise the meal prices. The cafeteria prices have remained the same for several years and have been below the average rates in Adams, York and Franklin counties. During that same May meeting, Stanton proposed offering breakfast to middle and high school students. Those breakfast prices were included in the consent agenda on Monday. Staff changes The board said goodbye to Daniel Watkins, the outgoing supervisor of special education. Watkins’ resignation was approved during a board meeting in March. He will resign on Thursday. Haupt and the board thanked Watkins for his service with the district. The board also approved hiring Todd L. Wolf as the new assistant principal for the middle and high schools. Wolford will begin work on or before July 1, according to the agenda. “My time with the superintendent has been unbelievable,” Wolford told the board. “I’ve met very few people who make an impression on me in the school system as much as he has, and I’ve been in it for awhile. I’m anxious to be a part of this staff, be a part of the team, and do the best we can by our students and the stakeholders in the community.” Wolford said he is eager to begin work. “(Haupt) has got some great ideas I want to bring to fruition for you,” Wolford said. Other business The board voted to reappoint Lashay M. Kalathas as its treasurer. In its agenda, the board announced that it previously held two closed meetings, both on June 13, in order to discuss personnel and legal issues. The next regular board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, July 25. The meeting will be held in the district board room and livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
As the six Adams County school districts wrap up their 2022-23 budgeting processes, it is worth noting the enormity of the tasks they have each faced and the complexities of the procedures they each followed to get there. The six districts, each serving less than 3,500 students, have worked independently for the past six months to create a new annual budget, post it on their website, modify it on the basis of new information, and explain it to and get it approved by their board. The workload is immense as the district superintendent and business manager call in assistants, principals, teachers, and staff to give advice and make decisions within a financial environment that is in constant flux. The public is also asked for its input, which is given through phone calls and emails to district administrators and board members and in often-passionate addresses at board meetings. At some meetings decorum is on thin ice as applause and cheers from the public follow public commentaries. In a classic Catch-22, each district is forced to make predictions for its budget based on state funding that has not been committed at the time the state requires the budget to be finalized. In comparison to most states the proportion of state funds that come to public schools in Pennsylvania is low, putting a greater burden on, and more intense interest in, the process from local taxpayers. Following proscriptive state laws, the budget must be approved by the school boards by the end of June but draft copies need to be posted 30 days prior for public inspection. This creates another level of confusion because the draft budgets are made public as new information is still arriving and final plans are being drafted. During the process each district’s budget is discussed in detail, often down to individual line items, by the boards in lengthy and sometimes contentious meetings. That there are six districts in our small county of a bit over 100,000 residents multiplies the work as each of the six teams spend countless hours making decisions about their small piece of the overall student body. And all this occurs in a context where almost all of each district’s budget is already fixed through required bond payments, salaries, and benefits. The tiny remainder of the budget is all that is tweakable. The situation repeats itself statewide, where there are over 500 school districts ranging from about 250 to 140,000 students. In contrast, neighboring Maryland has only 25 districts for about 6 million people with an average of 240,000 students in each district. (There is no rule that the six Adams districts could not combine, and there would be huge benefits to doing so, and yet there is no discussion of this that I am aware of.) Although budgets seem to be the biggest time commitment each district is also on its own to deal with myriad other details, each of which takes up time. In the past year UASD has responded to accusations of racial prejudice, FASD has dealt with structural problems including roof leaks, and LASD has created multiple committees to review dozens of books that one parent has suggested might be obscene. And each district has continued to deal with the pandemic, again each in its own way. There seems to be nothing to do except thank each and every one of the people who make this all possible. Their commitment to the students is unwavering and they get the tough job done.
Founded in 1987, the Adams County Literacy Council (ACLC) continues to promote essential adult education and employment skills for county residents. Noting the program serves about 170 people every year, ACLC Program Coordinator Alison Shuman said “taking ownership of one’s education is the first step of growth. The ACLC strives to make people more employable and reduce poverty.” ACLC volunteer tutors work one-on-one with learners to empower their education. “The tutors are the guts of the agency,” said Shuman. In a typical week, a learner receives 3-4 hours of instruction with a tutor along with outside platforms that supplement their learning at home. Tutors have at least a college degree. The ACLC provides a wide range of free services to match each learner’s educational needs and goals. The most basic include programs to improve reading and writing skills along with computer and financial literacy. ACLC also offers English as a Second Language as well as high school equivalence test training including pre-GED, and GED programs. Recently, the council has worked with the Adams County Prison to bring GED classes to inmates. Shuman said the U.S. Department of Education requires an Educational Functioning Level (EFL) test after every 50 hours of instruction to ensure learners are gaining from the programs they participate in. “The students like seeing they are making progress,” she said. The state of Pennsylvania works hard to make education more accessible and to ensure every citizen has access to education no matter what life stage they are in. Shuman said that literacy councils have been established in most counties across Pennsylvania to empower residents to take ownership over their education. Those who may not have had access to education or never completed high school have opportunities to return to academia. Shuman explained that sanctioned literacy councils around the state including ACLC are coordinated by state Intermediate Units. These units, each spanning several counties, act as liaisons between the Department of Education and the public, providing accessible educational services and agencies. The ACLC serves people from all demographics and all educational needs. “It’s hard to come back to education after leaving it for so long, but at the end of the day a promotion may mean being able to simply write, read, and speak better. When we see someone come in at a fifth-grade level and get their GED or even go to college, we know our work is bettering individuals, their intellect, and lifestyles as a whole,” said Shuman If you are interested in becoming a part of the learning community in Adams County, the literacy council is always looking for volunteers. To contact the ACLC, please call their office at 717-479-7032. Featured image caption: Tutor Elizabeth Richardson-Viti (left) with her student Khyati Vyas.
[Editor’s opinion]: In my three years of covering the GASD school board meetings I have never been more proud of this district, this administration, and these board members than I am today. The district is facing potentially severe budget shortfalls going forward by making informed, transparent, and reasonable decisions about taxation and other issues. I thank each and every one of you for your dedication to the children of this district [cs]. The Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) ended its 2021-22 school year by passing a 2022-23 budget with a small tax increase of 1.3 percent. The increase represents an increase of $54.92 on the average parcel of about $260,000, but most people should receive a small tax reduction due to offsetting increases in the homestead/farmstead credit. The needed increase was less than the district had proposed in prior meetings due to extra property tax income, savings from the district’s retirement account contributions, and increases in federal funds. Business Manager Belinda Wallen said total revenue was expected to increase 3.6 percent from 2021-22 to $68,720,407 while expenses were expected to increase 1.6 percent to $70,527,832. Wallen said increases in transportation and charter school costs, as well as the need to create new school police resource officer (SRO) positions led to the increased expenses. Wallen said the district was taking a $500,000 insurance holiday to help balance the budget as well as making reductions in expenses for IT hotspots and utilities. The district is also reducing district-paid field trips. Wallen said the district may still need to use funds from the unreserved fund balance if charter school costs remain high. District Superintendent Jason Perrin said the tax increase allowed the district to “carry forward the process of hiring school police and putting a couple of high school positions back in place. The goal was to impact instruction as little as possible,” he said. Addressing the need for the SRO officers, Perrin said responding to acute emergencies is a small percentage of SRO officer duties and that the proactive aspect of the positions was crucial. “It’s the relationships that those individuals build. They become part of the staff in the buildings,” he said. Board member Tim Seigman thanked the board members who had given individual input on ways to try to reduce expenditures. “I appreciate the fact that our business office budgets conservatively. We cannot overspend,” said board member Al Moyers. Moyers said he did not want to cut services and noted that tax increases had been small and that no school could keep pace with rises in contractual issues without some tax increases. “I want the school to be the best it possibly can,” he said. Board member Michael Dickerson said that during his time on the board he had learned that a school district budget was much different than a home or business budget. “We are letting professional positions go,” he said. Dickerson thanked Perrin and the board members saying said that although the board often received accusations of not being careful with spending, those allegations were “very far from the truth. We’re pretty diligent in what we try to do,” he said. Smyers thanked the board members, saying she had taken time off work and spent hours with Wallen going over the budget to understand how it works. “This isn’t easy. If I vote to raise taxes I’m raising my own taxes. This isn’t something I want to do,” she said. Board member Jeremy Davis said he was a business owner and paid a lot of taxes. “I don’t want to raise taxes on myself,” he said, “but at the same time I want to make sure the school district is operating in a manner that it should be. I don’t want to sacrifice the security of our children or the teachers. The more security we can provide within reason it’s our due diligence to do so. At the end of the day I’ve got sleep at night,” he said. Board member Ryan Morris focused on the need for police security, saying “my vote would yes because I want to ensure that my children are safe.” Board member AmyBeth Hodges voted against the proposal saying the district had “overbudgeted and overtaxed its residents.” Hodges said the district should use money in reserve funds instead of increasing taxes. The next regularly scheduled board meeting is scheduled for August 1.
On a 7-2 vote the Littlestown Area School District (LASD) board of supervisors has approved a one percent tax increase for 2022-23. Voting against the increase were board members Jeanne Ewen and Nicki Kenny. District Superintendent Christopher Bigger said the budget process had been “long and surgical” and noted that 70% of district homes will see a reduction in taxes despite the 1% increase. The overall decrease is due to an increase in the homestead/farmstead credits that most households receive. Bigger said the small increase will provide the district with the opportunity for some much-needed renovations as the designs for the Maple Avenue Middle School replacement project move forward. The board approved the 2022 Pre-K summer learning program on a 7-1 vote. Kenny voted against funding the program and board member Robert Hahn abstained. The board also unanimously approved a plan in which parents will have more control over materials their children can access through the district’s libraries. The concern is over books that have been challenged as obscene. Going forward, the district will allow parents to require that their children receive parental permission before checking out any of the 100 most banned and challenged books as defined by the American Library Association. Students whose parents opt into the program will be flagged in the library system and will not be able to check out materials without parental approval. The process will be revisited to ensure it is working effectively. The district gave awards to four students who have displayed leadership in academics, sports, and kindness and have been willing to lead their classmates in various aspects of learning. The awardees are Jordyn Beard, 12th Grade; Connor Myers, 8th Grade; Nathan Evans, 8th Grade; and Cora Bogus, Kindergarten. Bigger presented a year in review report in which he gave a “30,000-foot-view” of the year. Bigger said the quality of educators in the district, the excellence of the board, and the support of the community were all integral to the success of the school district. “Our performances exceeded growth expectations with limited learning loss,” he said. Bigger recapped progress on reaching goals related to graduation policy, facilities, and creating a positive student environment, and said going forward new goals might include increasing the number of students performing at advanced levels, exploring alternative school calendars, and rethinking early childhood education. The board also approved initiatives relating to coaching roles, teacher leaders, and sporting equipment. Featured image caption (l -r; Beard, Myers, Evans, and Bogus) Barring a need for an unscheduled July meeting the board will next meet on August 13.
By Imari Scarbrough The Bermudian Springs school board will not include any tax increases in its Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget following a close vote on Tuesday evening. The board discussed the pros and cons of including a tax increase in the budget, with concerns ranging from the problems of raising prices for residents on fixed income to worries that school programs will be cut if taxes are not raised. There were three options on the table: raising taxes 4.7% to the Act 1 index, with the real estate tax set at 13.0514 mills, setting the real estate tax rate at 12.7585 mills, or leaving the rate at 12.4656 mills. The third option with no tax increase passed with a narrow 5-4 vote after motions for the first two choices were defeated. Matthew P. Nelson, vice president of the board, argued in favor of raising taxes to the Act 1 index. “Oftentimes, taxes can be viewed as a burden, and oftentimes they can be,” Nelson said. “But I also think, when you have your property taxes, the school taxes that end up going to Bermudian are an investment. So it’s not a burden. That money’s going to be used and you can see directly the results. You see it on the stage. You see it in the stadium. You see it in the classrooms.” Others on the board worried that inflation would make a tax increase too hard on taxpayers. Nelson argued that inflation would increase the district’s financial needs. “The school district is not immune to those same exact pressures and problems that all of our families are going to have,” Nelson said. Treasurer Ruth Griffie, Mary Kemper, the board’s assistant secretary, and board members Daniel S. Chubb, Jennifer Goldhahn and Travis Mathna all voted against option one, defeating it 5-4. The same five members voted against the lower tax increase, defeating that motion 5-4. When the time came to vote for the third option with no tax increase, Michael Wool, the board’s president, said no business could function like school boards are expected to. “The way that the school funding model is set up in Pennsylvania is we are like at the end of the line,” Wool, who voted for raising taxes, said. “Whatever is left, we have to figure out how to address it. And as we talked about last night, the fact that I – or we – have to approve a budget before the state approves has to approve theirs to tell us what their contribution is is ridiculous. If any business tried to operate that way, they would fail miserably.” Wool also reminded everyone that all board members made their decisions with the students in mind, including both those who voted for and those who voted against raising taxes. “The other thing that I really want to point out, and this really is not so much to do with this particular motion, is that every person up here, regardless of their stance, is really all about doing what’s best for our kids and our community,” Wool said. “And I, you know, we’ve had some passionate debate and conversation. I know sometimes there are, I know, one-on-one conversations that can get very interesting. But I do appreciate that this board. That’s what they care about. Nobody is up here on an agenda.” Griffie, who voted against both proposed tax increases, said she has served on the board for six and a half years and for two terms. She shared her frustration with the calls to raise taxes. “My first year, and I will never forget this, in 1999, I came onto the board and I said I did not want to raise taxes because I would like to see my friends and my neighbors take a vacation,” Griffie said. “This one board member said to me, ‘But Ruth, if they take a vacation this year, they might not have money to pay their taxes next year.’ I said, ‘Oh, well. Next year will be next year.’ I just wanted to add that. That’s stuck with me since 1999. I have been trying to hold the line on taxes.” The same five board members who voted against the first two motions voted in favor of the third one, defeating Wool, Nelson, Secretary Douglas L. Knight and board member Corey A. Trostle with a close 5-4 vote. The board held two separate votes for the third option. The first set expenditures at $34,321,825 and revenues at $31,932,116. The second vote determined the taxes, which will not be increased. Board members voted the same way for both votes held for the third option. Rather than raising taxes, the district will use its fund balance to close the gap, leaving $3,243,658 left, according to the final budget. Last year, the board also voted to not impose a tax increase. Concerns from the public Before the budget vote was held, speakers from the community used the time for public comment to advocate for both positions. One man said he’s seen families unable to afford food. “To be raising taxes in a time of record inflation is directly going to hurt the people who are poorest,” he said. He felt the board should reduce rather than raise taxes. “The compassionate, loving thing to do to love your neighbor, the neighbors who elected you here, would be to cut taxes hard,” he said. “If you cannot cut taxes hard– you don’t have the votes for it because some just want to continuously raise taxes to pay for every little magic dream you have – if you can’t do that, then the compromise position is to hold the line at zero.” Another man urged the board to examine all of its expenses before raising taxes. “I can’t see how anyone in good conscience right now, knowing what’s going on in the economy, could say that a tax increase is good at this time,” he said. One woman commented on the offers the board received from some speakers who offered to help raise the necessary funds or find other ways to close the gaps without a tax increase. She questioned why many did not show up for other meetings or fundraising efforts until now. She also said the entire community benefits from the school educating students and keeping them busy even if some taxpayers do not have children enrolled in the district. Some people worried programs will eventually be cut and classrooms will be overcrowded without the extra funding. “Please make the hard decision,” one speaker said as he urged the board to raise taxes. “It may not be the popular one, but it is the one that is necessary.” The board unanimously agreed to not raise cafeteria breakfast or lunch prices for the 2022-23 school year. Other business The board approved hiring Brian Booher as the new special education director. Booher will fill the role left open following the resignation of Sonja Brunner. The board will hold its next caucus meeting on Aug. 8 and its next regular meeting on Aug. 9. Both meetings are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Meetings are held in the high school auditorium and are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
By Bryn Jarusewski Have you ever visited the New Oxford Library? If not, please stop by to visit our tiny but mighty branch of the Adams County Library System. Since New Oxford is much smaller than many of the other satellite branches, do you ever wonder how we receive, process, and distribute our materials? Our library is much too small to handle that capacity of materials and books, process subscriptions to magazines, and store all of the STEM and educational materials. Thanks to the Gettysburg Branch, located in downtown Gettysburg, our branch can receive support for the everyday functions of the library. Because our library cannot hold all the books ordered for the county, Gettysburg will process the materials through the materials handling and will distribute them to the branches to maintain as a small collection. However, our branches cannot hold all the popular materials so the Adams County Library System has created a rotation schedule to keep the branches fresh and interesting over the course of a year or two. As a nonprofit 501c(3) organization, the Adams County Library System relies on donors like you! The New Oxford Library, among the other branches, relies heavily on our Development Director Erica Duffy, coordinates fundraising efforts through programs such as the Endowment Giving, Giving Spree, and other incredible ways. Without your help and Erica’s, we would not have the funds to operate our library or purchase books for readers like you. The list of reasons and ways the Gettysburg Library supports the New Oxford Library is endless, so I will just sum up a few: Delivery six days a week is provided by the Gettysburg branch IT Department to fix all our technology woes Youth Services will provide support for our SummerQuest programs A simple thank you is not enough for all that Gettysburg does for our tiny, but mighty branch! Mark your calendars! Friends of the Adams County Library System’s Annual Summer Book Sale Bonanza. Thurs-Sat, 7/28-30. Held at Redding’s Auction Services, 1085 Table Rock Road, Gettysburg. 9am-7pm Thurs & Fri; and 9am-2pm Sat..Five free books per child in attendance. Teachers’ special on Fri only: 15 free classroom appropriate books per teacher. $5/bag sale on Sat; buy 2 get 1 free. Food truck present for breakfast & lunch items on Thurs & Fri.
The Conewago Valley school board approved its final Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget during its meeting on Monday evening, passing a tax increase along with the budget. The $72,220,492 budget includes a 4.6% increase in real estate taxes, with the millage rate moving from 14.1993 to 14.8524. The 4.6 percent is the maximum allowed under the state’s Act 1 limitations. Other taxes will remain unchanged, according to page 12 of the final budget. The earned income tax rate will stay at 1% and a 0.5% realty transfer tax will also remain the same. A $5 per capita tax under school code Section 679, a $5 per capita tax under Act 511 and a 5% amusement tax were also left untouched, according to the budget document. The board also approved pricing cafeteria lunches at $2.50 for the elementary and intermediate schools and $2.75 for secondary schools. The price for milk was set at 50 cents. Breakfast for students at all school levels will be priced at $1.50. While the board unanimously approved other finance items on the agenda, including the cafeteria prices, board members Patricia Klunk Gouker and Tara Bolton voted against adopting the budget with the tax increase. During the time for public comment, one individual said they were frustrated with the process to receive a copy of the proposed budget ahead of the meeting. The woman said she was unable to receive an emailed copy from the district until hours before the meeting. The woman said business manager Lori Duncan notified her that she’d received the Right to Know request for the budget on June 7 and requested an extension of 30 days, which the woman said she did not agree to. The budget was emailed to her today and posted to the district website. “I personally respect you all… But I question your ethics,” the woman said. “I question your lack of transparency.” Board solicitor Brooke Say said copies of the budget were available for pubic review and that the district had followed the law. Say added that Duncan did not have to ask for a 30-day extension and did not need to fill the request immediately, asking for the days only as a “courtesy.” Wrapping up the school year Matthew Muller, principal of New Oxford Middle School, provided a combined building report for the schools. This month, he used a unique format, showing the board photos from the schools with captions explaining the photos. Each school building contributed photos from May for the presentation. “You folks are busy,” Muller said. “A lot of times you don’t get to see some of those kinds of things and if it’s not on social media, you may not know about it.” View the video report. Board President Edward Groft said he enjoyed the visual report. “That is new, and it does give us a little better scope of everything going on because there are a lot of thing that we do not or are not able to attend,” Groft said. Dr. Robert Walker, who recently started as the assistant superintendent, said he appreciates the district and community and has felt welcomed since his first day. “First of all, I want to say thank you to the faculty and staff here and the parents that have been in, Walker said. “It has been just an absolutely warm and kind, heartfelt welcome. I felt, even after my first day, I said, ‘I felt like I’d worked here my entire life and I’d just met these people.’” Walker said he’s eager to assist with developing plans for the district next month. Superintendent Sharon Perry said she was glad Walker joined the staff. “His enthusiasm is contagious and infectious,” Perry said. Perry said planning is going well for the next school year. She said she is “super proud” that professional development for next school year is nearly fully planned. “It was a momentous feat to think about all of the things that we’re focusing within our district, mobilizing that towards the future and coming up with a plan towards that,” Perry said. She pointed to the building report Muller had shared as showing their motivation for intensive long-term planning. “The one thing that really stands out to me, and it can’t be missed, is that every single highlight had a child in that picture,” Perry said. “And that truly is the focus of our district. We are all here because of the children within in our school community and it’s truly a testament to how we work together as a team that that is our focal point. And that’s why we do all of this planning together is to give them the very best opportunities that we can.” Perry said the district has developed priorities to focus on for its comprehensive planning. “We want to focus on fiscal health and mental health,” Perry said. “They came out as the key focus area. Student engagement is part and parcel to that. It’s not just for our students. It’s for our adults also. So it’s for our faculty, it’s for our staff, it’s for our administration, (and) it’s also for parents and our community that we want to be and serve that support in that area. Our professional learning, our curriculum and instruction and assessment is about that.” Perry said the administration is “learning about trauma-informed care” and looks forward to beginning a new school year. “I couldn’t be more proud as the superintendent in what is a rather tough year of ups and downs I believe for all,” Perry said. “But we’re coming out now, I think, on the other side from the challenges COVID has brought to us and our community and I look forward to having a wonderful year next year.” Groft agreed. “It was a good year,” he said. “It started out a little rough and it ended up as good as I felt we could be.” He also said the district’s recent graduation ceremony was a success. “I will tell you, there was as many tears as there was smiles at graduation,” Groft said. “We had some excellent speakers and they did bring the kids to some tears. It was a pretty neat evening.” Recognition The board recognized several students: Hunter Crabbs was named as the New Oxford High School Rotary Student of the Month in May Hailey Linebaugh was noted for being named the Athlete of the Week by the Gettysburg Times during the week of May 9. Linebaugh was one of five students initially nominated for the honor. Jon Makowski, an English and journalism instructor at New Oxford High School, was recognized for being named the 2022 Teacher Impact Award honoree. Several students were also recognized for receiving college acceptances and scholarships. The board held executive sessions before and after the open session. There will be no monthly meeting in July. The board will hold its next study session at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1 and will hold a regular board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8. Both meetings will be held in the district office. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
The Fairfield Area school district is beginning the process of developing long-term plans for its curriculum, training, facilities and more. During the school board’s meeting on Monday evening, Superintendent Thomas Haupt gave a state of the district speech which also served as an opportunity for him to share his vision for the future. Haupt said the district will pursue a “change in culture” and the overall plan will take years to fully implement. One part of his vision includes strengthening community partnerships. “We have good partnerships with local businesses and local business leaders, but we really need to enhance those partnerships,” Haupt said. Haupt also has plans to invest in a K-12 curriculum plan that includes both creating content as well as focusing on professional development. The curriculum plan will have the goal of creating “multiple exposures” to the skills students will need for life after school. “Outside of rigorous content, something I will just say we have not done a good job with in this district – we must get better at doing this – and that is to professionally develop our teachers,” Haupt said. Haupt said the administration will begin to work on a facilities plan but does not yet have one in place. He stressed the importance of developing long-term plans for each need in order to most wisely and efficiently handle the district’s budget. Members of the administration will begin putting together plans this summer, he said, as the overall plan is still in its infancy. School board member Lisa Sturges, a former teacher, said she was particularly interested in learning what professional development will look like for teachers. “When I came here many moons ago, I had a lot of professional development,” Sturges said. “We were all allowed to go to one – it had to be approved and it had to be a current philosophy of the district– but in-service or workshops. They weren’t in-house, they were out so you could connect with other districts. Are we going to see some of that come back? Because there really hasn’t been, in many years, any kind of those concentrated workshops in specific areas, and I see it as a real weakness.” Sturges recalled her experience as a teacher. “Fortunately I had a lot (of professional development) in my early career that helped me, but I see that (lack of it) as something that really hurts us as a district,” Sturges said. Haupt said he couldn’t promise any specifics at this stage, but agreed that professional development will be important. The board unanimously approved its consent agenda with the exception of approving a pay raise for Haupt. Sturges said she wanted to discuss the item in closed session. According to the agenda, the raise would bump Haupt’s salary to $155,040 as of July 1. His previous salary was not specified. The same agenda item also called for the board to accept his performance assessment, which was noticed as being “rated as distinguished” for this school year. After the closed session, the raise and performance assessment were passed with a vote of 6-3. Sturges, Treasurer Lashay Kalathas, and board member Candace Ferguson-Miller voted against the agenda item. The board recognized five employees who finished three years of employment at FASD and earned tenure: Rebecca Abell, Kevin Dorsey, Kristi Ebaugh, Samantha Goetz and Emily Makar. Several people were also recognized for their dedication and years within the district. Charles Engel and Regina Lee were celebrated for completing 25 years with FASD while Kenneth Haines, Daniel Irwin, Siri Phelps and John Ridge each completed 20 years. There was no public comment. The board will vote on the final Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 27. Meetings are held in the district board room and are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
As the graduates of Fairfield Area High School prepared to accept their diplomas during their graduation ceremony on June 1, speakers focused on the students’ perseverance through the challenges of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Honey K. Strosnider, the class vice president, commended the students for their work and thanked the community that supported the students. “Every one of you has made an impact on the graduates who sit here today,” Strosnider said. “These last four years have been a period of growth and preparation for whatever our futures hold. We’ve gone through challenges, no doubt, such as COVID and its restrictions. However, we’ve kept our heads high, which has allowed us to be here today. As we start this next chapter, please let it be known that we graduates are extremely thankful for all of the support we’ve been given and are excited to make you all proud.” Kaden L. Hunter, the class president, highlighted the potential of his class, pointing the students out as “the future of our society.” Hunter said he expected to see his classmates succeed. He pointed to the district as a way the students are connected. “Though we do not all have similar dreams and goals, our dreams and goals were all derived from the 13 years that we spent in school,” Hunter said. “Whether or not we realize it, our school helped us develop social skills, communication skills, leadership skills, logical thinking skills, and so much more, including our ambitions. We were taught how to be kind to others and accept peoples’ differences, respect others’ opinions and solve problems in our lives. Though there were no lessons teaching these important skills directly, they were developed as a result of the amazing community that the school provided.” Hunter reflected on the change the students saw in a short time from being overwhelmed freshmen to the unique struggles they faced as high school students in a pandemic. “Now we are standing on this stage today and there is nothing that we cannot do,” Hunter said. “The COVID-19 pandemic shut down our normal education. Nobody had time to prepare for such unfortunate circumstances. We struggled, we lost sleep, our mental health at risk, our quality of work depleted, but you know what? We adapted. We pulled through. We grew and we became stronger. Our class endured it all and we became unstoppable as a result.” Hunter praised the students for drawing from their own strength and for their commitment to bettering themselves and their community despite injustices and tragedies. “Despite all of the hardship in the world, all of the things that are used to tear us down – discrimination, violence and ignorance – this class became stronger, smarter, more tolerant and open-minded,” Hunter said. “Together, we fought all of the societal issues trying to hold us back. This amazing ability to prevail led me to conclude that our generation of free-thinking individuals will conquer a future that is free of these hateful societal implementations.” Hunter said division is “the number one thing holding back our society,” adding that he felt his classmates and generation could work to be the solution. “We’re divided by religion, race, gender, sexuality, class, and the list goes on,” Hunter said. “Why do we allow these things to divide us? Why aren’t we all just human beings? Is it easier to be hateful than respectful? It shouldn’t be, and I believe wholeheartedly that this class and this generation of individuals will be the generation that brings us closer together and closer to uniting us as human beings. Albert Einstein once said, ‘I’m more interested in the future than the past because the future is where I intend to live.’… Our generation of open-minded thinkers will open doors to countless advancements in society. There is nothing we cannot accomplish.” Valedictorian Mary Aker said that even though their time in high school was “a little unorthodox,” she was proud of her classmates’ perseverance. She compared the students’ anxious anticipation of their next steps with how they felt as eighth grade students preparing to enter high school. Aker quoted Oscar Wilde: “I am not young enough to know everything.” Aker also quoted Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, saying, “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Aker suggested students reframe their thoughts to help calm axiety. “First, acknowledge the moment we are in right now before it passes, before it becomes a new part of the road we walk down, a memory in the far distance,” Aker said. “It is here, unfolding on this stage, in real time. Tonight, we are graduating. It’s real, it’s exciting, it’s scary and it’s amazing.” Aker also said students should welcome the freedom Kierkegaard observed. “Secondly, we should take time to appreciate this anxiety,” Aker said. “That means we have a newfound freedom to experience and with this freedom, we can go wherever we want. We have everything ahead of us: college, careers, friendships and these new choices and paths are scary because we don’t know a clear way to choose. Which could be right and which could be wrong? But a clear path would be one that is boring and unrewarding.” Aker told the students to appreciate the different versions of themselves. “Tonight is a night to celebrate our past selves, present achievements and future endeavors, to thank this school, all who helped make it thrive, and ourselves,” Aker said. Salutatorian Tiffany G. Ellsworth also had a quote for students: “It’s just a bad day. Not a bad life.” Ellsworth said that quote helped her hang on during the “rollercoaster” of high school. “Our class didn’t have the normal high school experience,” Ellsworth said. “We were at the end of our sophomore year when COVID hit. It separated our grade for about a year before we were allowed to come back and see each other again in school. Even with all of the hardships that COVID put us through, I truly believe it made our grade stronger and we learned to appreciate more things in life because of it. Our grade is like no other, I must say. At times when I thought our grade was so separated, we were all so, so close.” Ellsworth said that during a time of heightened stress, she has noticed compassion from her classmates. “I truly believe that any of us would do anything for each other,” Ellsworth said. “We noticed when each other was upset by a simple look in the hallway, and we always did our best to pick each other up. Living in a small town is like a double-edged sword. Yes, everyone may know everything about each other, but the bonds and friendships you’re able to form make it all worth it. We helped each other on those bad days so they didn’t become bad lives.” Ellsworth said she wanted to make the most of her final year of school and made changes to “make it memorable.” She encouraged her classmates to also be bold even when they are scared. “Mistakes are how you learn lessons, and if you don’t learn lessons, how are you supposed to grow as a person?” Ellsworth mused. “The most important thing I took out of my senior year is that your mistakes don’t define you.” Ellsworth left the audience with a final quote. “To the class of 2022: I have grown up with most of you since kindergarten,” she said. “You have truly become my best friends. I found a quote that I think accurately describes how hard this moment is for all of us and it is one by one of our childhood favorites. It reads, ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?’ (from) Winnie the Pooh.” Brian McDowell, principal of Fairfield Area High School, told the community that they were responsible for helping every student succeed. “Like I just said to the faculty: it takes all of us for these fine young folks to be successful,” McDowell said. “We had 91 eligible to graduate. Ninety-one graduated. That’s a testament to them and, really, I think, to all of us rowing the boat in the same direction, so to speak.” During the event, the concert choir sang the alma mater, “America,” and “For Good” from the musical, Wicked. Jennifer I. Holz, president of the school board, and Thomas J. Haupt, superintendent of the district, also joined the students on stage as the graduates received their diplomas. Featured Image: Kaden L. Hunter addresses his classmates.
The 156 graduates of the Littlestown Senior High School Class of 2022 gathered with their teachers, school board, families, and friends on the field of Thunderbolt Stadium on Friday evening to receive their diplomas and take the first step as recent graduates into the rest of their lives. The weather remained on the favorable side for the ceremony and the graduates were welcomed with cheering, music, and applause on the Thunderbolt Field turf. Interim Principal Joel Moran spoke highly of the graduates, saying they have truthfully not had a “normal” high school experience compared to years past. “No matter where their lives take them after graduation, and what path they are headed on towards their future, we feel good about their path – and will continue to support them with our actions,” he said. Moran said that while Littlestown was able to keep most students in person as much as possible throughout the years of the pandemic, it was not without its challenges. “This group of students has experienced extreme highs and lows with post-pandemic life — but through it all, they have had the community of Littlestown supporting them every step of the way.” “The Class of 2022 is filled with hardworking and caring individuals. It has been our pleasure to teach many of our soon-to-be graduates and to serve as their advisors for the past four years,” said Class of 2022 Co-Advisors Mariah Becker and Sara Brenneman in email statement. “It was truly a joy to see these students grow from young freshmen to kind, caring, and mature young adults ready to take on the world! We look forward to hearing about how each of them will follow their dreams and do great things in the future!” After the graduates had each received their diplomas, the high school choir gave a rendition of “Remember Me” from the Disney film “Coco” and the high school band also performed. “Wow, this was one wild ride” said Salutatorian Trent Boritz, kicking off the student commencement speeches. “I believe it is important we remember all of the friends we have made along the way and the impact they have made on our lives.” Boritz spoke of warm friendships, comradery with classmates and teachers, and the importance of family and their impact on their journeys. “You all have great futures ahead of you, so don’t look back on your mistakes. Life is too short to worry about the stupid things. Have fun, regret nothing, and don’t let others tell you that you can’t follow your dreams.” “Know this, things will go wrong and you will struggle to get back up – but the hardest times are created for the strongest people,” he said. Valedictorian Lura Johnson expressed her gratitude for the many Littlestown educators, community members, and their families who have helped them along the way. “Don’t let the rest of the day go by without making sure to let them know how thankful you are,” she said. Speaking of the journeys the students had taken, Johnson acknowledged that some may have a clear vision of their future while others may remain uncertain of the path their life may take. “Either way, it is important to take what you have already learned and grow from it,” she said. Johnson encouraged her classmates to begin to consider the world around them and what type of impact they hope to leave (whether big or small) behind them, and to take all that they have learned from their years at Littlestown with them along the way. Johnson quoted French physicist and Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie, saying “Nothing is life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Class President Derek Reed closed the student speeches by focusing on the many challenges the students had overcome and achievements they had made, elaborating on the lengthy history of education in Littlestown, dating back to the 1700s, and bringing it full circle to the class of 2022. “It’s funny to think how some of us were horrified for our freshman year of high school, but look at us now,” he said. Reid noted the hardships the students had overcome, and the achievements that they had made along the way. He encouraged students to remember their Alma Mater as they continue into their futures, reminding them of their class motto: “We will find a way or make one.” Reed closed his speech with a quote from musician Vera Lynn, “Don’t know where, don’t know when, but we’ll meet again someday.” Assistant Principal Dr. Judith Berryman recognized the many students who received awards. Littlestown Area School District Superintendent Christopher Bigger spoke about the word “perspective,” saying “Just when you think you have it figured out, new experiences come in.” Bigger posed the question of the influx of technology to the students and attendees, asking them, in a world of technological advancement, “where do you go to disconnect?” Bigger encouraged students to find a place where they could take a step back from a situation to gain perspective. “Find that place and visit it often,” he said. Bigger encouraged the graduates to work on maintaining perspective and chasing their dreams, saying that if they were able to continue to seek perspective and asking advice they would be able to build a world they want to live in. “Life is about your future, not our past,” he said. ““So wheels up, take off, fly Thunderbolts.” Featured image from Littlestown Area School District
As Bermudian Springs High School celebrated its graduation ceremony on Friday evening, seniors reminisced about their school years while contemplating what their futures might hold. During his speech, valedictorian Ethan Beachy fondly recalled his time at Bermudian Springs. “As a student throughout high school, middle school and even elementary school, I looked forward to the day that school was finally over for good,” Beachy said. “Now that I have experienced all there is to experience, I am not sure the end of school is a thing I should have looked forward to. Quite frankly, I loved my time here at Bermudian Springs and I hope every one of my classmates feels the same way.” Beachy recalled several memories of his time from elementary through high school. “These memories and experiences are so special to me, but there is one thing even more important that I have gained from Bermudian Springs: the lasting relationships and friendships,” Beachy said. Beachy thanked the staff and faculty of the district for their support. He also said he hopes friendships can continue after the students leave the high school. “I hope I can stay close with every single one of you, even as unrealistic as that may be,” Beachy said. “No matter what happens, I will always cherish the time we have spent together.” He also credited his family for “holding me to such a high standard but also giving me endless support.” According to notes provided by the district, Beachy plans to study physics at Bucknell University. He had a cumulative grade point average of 102.716%. Salutatorian Amber Nickey also spoke, saying the years seemed to go by quickly. “It feels like just yesterday I got lost walking to class during freshman year, seeing seniors who I was certain were at least 10 years older than me,” Nickey said. “But look at us now, seniors ourselves. Now is the time to reminisce about all of the unforgettable moments from the past four years.” Nickey had a list of fun memories, including “football games, spirit weeks, powderpuff games, concerts and even the late nights studying.” She told her fellow graduates to enjoy the memories but to look forward to the next part of their lives. “We will begin the portion of our lives where we learn,” Nickey said. “For some of us, that means going to college and studying hard, learning as much as possible about our chosen professions. For others, that means training and learning how to be successful in the workforce. And for some, that still means trying new things and learning what makes you happy.” Nickey said the students would leave their high school textbooks behind but would find new concepts to learn in the years ahead. “We will learn to make tough decisions, like when it is right for us to leave home and take full responsibility for our own lives,” Nickey said. “We will learn how to connect with new people and learn that it is okay to outgrow old friends. Some of these lessons will certainly be difficult to accept, but no matter where the next few years take us, we all will undoubtedly learn more about ourselves, our passions and our goals.” Nickey said she looked forward to seeing how her classmates succeeded as they transitioned to the next stage of their lives. “This is the part where we apply all of our wisdom to the real world,” Nickey said. “Here, we will fulfill those professions that we worked so hard for. We will finally be able to share our passions and talents with the rest of the world.” Nickey thanked her family, friends and the staff at Bermudian Springs for their support. She plans to study chemistry at Millersville University, according to notes provided by the district. Nikey finished school with a cumulative GPA of 102.187%. Class President Lillian Peters found solace in the “wise words” of Hannah Montana’s, “I’ll Always Remember You.” Peters quoted part of the song: “I always knew this day would come. We’d be standing one by one/ With our future in our hands, so many dreams, so many plans/ I always knew that after all these years, there’d be laughter, there’d be tears / But I never thought I’d walk away with so much joy but so much pain/ and it’s so hard to say ‘goodbye.’” Peters said the lyrics perfectly represented her emotions. “While these words may just be lyrics from a first grade idol, they also sum up how many of us are feeling today at this very moment,” Peters said. “I for one cannot believe this day has come and it feels like it shouldn’t be here quite yet.” Peters recalled fun times growing up with her classmates and left the audience with more lyrics from the song. “So instead of ‘goodbye,’ I will say ‘thank you’ and even though: ‘Yesterday’s gone, we gotta keep moving on/ I’m so thankful for the moments, so glad I got to know you / The times that we had, I’ll keep like a photograph /And hold you in my heart forever. I’ll always remember you.’” The ceremony’s invocation was given by Rebekah Gerringer. Senior members of the chorus performed, “The Little Creek” by Matt Carlson. Bailey Oehmig provided the benediction. “We had a beautiful evening for the ceremony,” Jon DeFoe, principal of Bermudian Springs High School, said via email. “The graduates were very appreciative and thankful to be outside for the ceremony.” Editor’s Note: The graduation ceremony was livestreamed through the district’s YouTube page but was partially inaudible. All student quotes were taken from copies of the speeches provided by Bermudian Springs School District following the ceremony. Featured Image: Nickey (l.) and Beachy (r.)
The Gettysburg High School Class of 2022 has completed a high school experience continually challenged by Covid-19 restrictions. The many challenges and the perseverance of the students to overcome them were highlighted during their commencement ceremony on Friday evening in the football stadium. “Every day we are faced with a unique challenge,” said valedictorian Lucas Samuel Oberholtzer-Hess. “And we can learn to use that challenge to become a better version of ourselves. Overcoming them makes this moment that much more impressive and hopefully that much sweeter.” “This year alone we have faced so many challenges. It was an exceptionally difficult time for us. We have received over half of our high school education trying to learn while trying to stay safe at the same time,” he said. “We’ve all accomplished something in graduating. We can all be proud of ourselves. We’ll continue to be resilient and grow. Remember that this diploma would mean nothing if it hadn’t taken 13 years of schooling.” Oberholtzer-Hess thanked the staff and faculty, saying “these adults have been the ones facilitating our growth through hard times. They always seem to put our needs and our growth first.” High School Principal Jeremy Lusk encouraged students to think every day about “What matters most.” He thanked the board of school directors, school district Superintendent Jason Perrin and Assistant Superintendent Christine Lay as well as the rest of the staff, saying “education remains the most important tool to both empower and improve. Lusk said teachers are more and more deserving of praise every year. “You continue to focus on what matters most: these kids. You continue to be a source of motivation, of strength, of compassion, of encouragement, of understanding.” Lusk stressed the Importance of being present, being involved in the community, and being kind. “Remember how special you are,” he said, noting the students had experienced Covid, closures, remote learning, sickness, distance, fatigue, renovations, and even death. “But in you we saw cooperation, GRIT, resilience, growth, spirit, giving, and light.” Lusk said students with scholastic honors would receive medals for their achievements, including cum Laude (top 10 percent), magna cum laude (top 5 percent) and summa cum laude (top 2 percent). In what has become an annual tradition, Lusk read a poem he had written for the class: Warriors, Get Up! Because you felt so compelled from an early age, Get up! Because it was a sunny day (or even if is not), Get up! Because someone you trust told you to, Get up! Because opportunity is knocking, Get up! Because you cannot seize the day unless you try, Get up! Because someone you love is waiting for you, Get up! Because your mind, body, and soul will benefit, Get up! Because there’s something new to learn somewhere else, Get up! Because the world will not spend time feeling sorry for you, Get up! Because someone else needs you, Get up! Because you just might need a new perspective, Get up! Because challenges lead to growth and obstacles are there to overcome, Get up! Because there is a lot to be thankful for, Get up! Because no one but you can keep you down, Get up! Because justice doesn’t happen idly, Get up! Because there are places to explore, Get up! Because your passions are calling, Get up! Because you can make the world better if you choose to, Get up! Because you’ve trained for the moment, Get up! Because in the end you’re worth it, Get up! Because you’re surrounded by supporters, Get up! Because the stage of life is waiting for you to walk, Get up!
Although the weather was not auspicious during the ceremony, the futures of the New Oxford High School seniors who graduated on Thursday evening certainly are. Before the graduates accepted their diplomas, staff, faculty and fellow students reminded them that change is inevitable. The graduating seniors were encouraged to welcome change while never forgetting who they truly are. New Oxford principal Christopher T. Bowman said he had known the students since they were in seventh grade. He applauded their hard work when faced with unique challenges. “To my first four-year graduating class as a high school principal: Congrats. You made it,” Bowman said. “You made it through a year that the world of education will never forget. You helped to set the tone for your peers and worked to reestablish so many of our important events and traditions at New Oxford High School. You are to be commended for your spirit and resolve. Your class will certainly be remembered for having battled through a pandemic only to return full-time to make the most of your senior year.” Bowman encouraged the students to treasure the people in their lives and to never stop learning. He told them to learn from their mistakes. “My hopes for you are this: that you will continue to find ways to challenge yourself and make your mark in your community, which can be done in big and small ways,” Bowman said. “The more comfortable you get being uncomfortable, the more readily you will grow. Humble yourself in the face of conflict and adversity and embrace failure as an opportunity to learn. Life is a series of choices and consequences. Strive for choices that will result in positive outcomes.” Two students, Kiefer Bell and Braden Tyson, also delivered speeches to the graduates. Bell told fellow students to boldly take advantage of the chances they receive. “Say, ‘Yes’ to every opportunity that comes your way, especially if it is out of your comfort zone,” Bell said. “I have found that what has allowed me to grow the most were the things I expected the least. Only you can limit yourself, and only you can decide how much of life you are going to conquer, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I believe we can conquer it all.” Bell said to keep in mind that the end of their high school years was the beginning of their next stage in life. “So, take risks, believe in yourself, be kind, and make your younger self proud and become who you truly want to be when you grow up,” Bell said. Tyson surveyed 100 New Oxford seniors, including 50 females and 50 males, before their graduation to see what single word they would use to sum up their high school experience. Tyson said answers included: “fun, cool, happy, sad” and “homework.” Others used the words, “impactful, mission, hindsight, fleeting, stressful, venturesome, (and) value.” One student, Alex Setliff, provided a response Tyson found striking: “resilience.” “Every generation has obstacles to overcome,” Tyson said. “We could look up commencement speeches from the last fifty years at New Oxford and see messages about difficulties. New or not, these challenges require us to be resilient.” Tyson said failure can be part of the journey – and part of the eventual solution to find success. “We need to start accepting the fact that there are some giants that we will not defeat in the first round,” Tyson said. “You need endurance and stamina to reach some goals. There are moments of glory in life, but they do not come easily or often.” Tyson encouraged students to persevere when they struggle. “… I like to think that Alex wrote ‘resilience’ not just because there were tough moments in high school or tough moments ahead of us,” Tyson said. “He wrote ‘resilience’ because he recognized that each of us demonstrates resilience. Now we take it with us to whatever is next.” Superintendent Sharon Perry encouraged the graduates to remember their friends, family and community, including supporters from within the schools. “We hope you have enjoyed your time with us as much as we have enjoyed our time with you,” Perry said. “We are proud of you. We can’t wait for you to come home and share your successes and achievements with us.” Two teachers, Jamie Weaver and Lauren LaBarca, also addressed the students. Perry introduced each of them, saying that students came up with the paragraphs about each. Weaver said she met the graduates when they were sophomores and urged them to stay true to themselves and accept change. “People have been asking me all of my life how I have so much energy, so much enthusiasm and why I smile so much,” Weaver said. “I’ve never had an answer to those questions; it’s just who I am… More often than not, people misread these traits as naiveté, so being me never felt good enough because kindness and vulnerability felt like weakness. But kindness is not weakness. Vulnerability is not weakness.” Weaver reminded the students to try to do good, to “be kind” and to “take risks.” LaBarca said she met the students when they were in seventh grade. “I’m here today to tell you that your life will forever be a series of paradoxes,” LaBarca said. “So, with this in mind, I thought I’d leave you with the best advice in paradox form that I could come up with. Here it is: Never apologize for being who you are, but, apologize often.” LaBarca also encouraged the students to embrace their true selves. “Be unapologetically you,” LaBarca said. But while the graduates should not apologize for who they are, they should own up to mistakes, LaBarca said. “In my estimation, though, one of the greatest failures of our society is that we don’t accept responsibility for our actions,” LaBarca said. “But if we want to take responsibility for the good that happens, then we also need to be able to take responsibility for the bad. Saying ‘I was wrong,’ or saying ‘I’m sorry:’ These are the most difficult things in the world, yet maybe the most important.” After the speeches were completed, the class officers gave a monetary gift to Perry for the school and class of 2026. Class President Edna Ibisevic left the students with a supporting message. “As we move on from here, the road ahead will not be easy,” Ibisevic said. “We are going to feel alone at times like we cannot possibly go on. However, nothing worthwhile is easy. I think we have all experienced this to some extent in our latest years. You will keep pushing forward because you are worth it.” Class vice president Riley Strausbaugh, secretary Haidee Lupian, treasurer Kiefer Bell, and historian Makenzie Yingling joined Ibisevic to give the gift to Perry. They also led the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the ceremony. Bell performed the National Anthem. The senior choir sang the Alma Mater. Featured image: Graduating senior Kiefer Bell addresses the audience.
The Fairfield Area School District has a high turnover rate, but Superintendent Thomas Haupt says it’s his plan to fix it. Haupt, who began working at the district in January, said the high turnover rates occur largely in “very key leadership positions.” He pointed out that the special education supervisor will be the fourth in seven years. During the meeting, the board approved the resignation of Kaleb Crawford, the district’s coordinator of technology, and will now hire the third person in six years for that role. Tim Stanton, who was hired this year, is the fourth business manager in three years, according to Haupt. “I’m really the third superintendent in a seven-year period,” Haupt said. “I’m looking to obviously change that trend with my tenure here.” The superintendent said he will soon show the board a draft organizational chart and job descriptions for the middle and high school assistant principal position. He also wants to give them a “peek behind the curtains” of his vision for the next three to five years. “That’s all-around transformation, and really how we look now versus how we would look three to five years from now and the steps along the way,” Haupt said. “Very high-level. We have quite a bit of work to do this summer in terms of developing plans, but again, I look forward to doing that work with the team that we’re building.” Haupt said he won’t reduce the turnover rate or address other issues on his own. He plans to seek feedback from teachers, members of administration, community members and students as well as the board. Stanton said the business office has also realized the need to cross train people to handle payroll in the event that the primary person who handles it is unable to work. That training will begin this week and will mean the district will not need to rely on only one person to handle payroll. 2023-24 budget In its consent agenda, the board approved keeping the tax millage rate at 11.1305, reaffirming its decision to not raise the rate. With the Adjusted Index at 4%, the board had the option to raise the tax millage rate to 11.5757. The board also voted to adopt the 2022-23 proposed preliminary budget, which will likely be finalized during the board’s meeting on June 27. Eighth grade appreciation The board debated what eighth grade appreciation should look like. Some wanted to see the currently scaled-back appreciation return to being the bigger event it used to be. Board Vice President Jack Liller said nothing had been done for it since 2018 and he was glad it was being celebrated again. Liller said he supported inviting parents but didn’t think it necessarily needed to be a larger event. “They’re 14 years old, so I don’t think they need ceremonies to graduate from every other year, but I would go so far as to say that we should have students tell us if they want their parents there,” Liller said. “They’re 14. It wasn’t meant to be a, like, award ceremony. It was meant to be a fun day of pizza, you get a couple of awards, you watch movies with your teachers– all of that stuff wrapped into it. It’s not like they’re walking down and taking a photo op kind of– I think we’re looking at it like it’s supposed to be a ceremony when it wasn’t. It was just a kind of, ‘You’re going to high school. Let’s have a pizza party’ kind of thing.” Some on the board felt it should be a bigger event with parents welcome to attend. Board member Candace Ferguson-Miller said she was once a student in the district and had fond memories of the eighth grade appreciation being a bigger event. At the time she attended, she said parents could also attend and students were treated to a formal and dinner. “So for what we have now is heartbreaking to me to see that, one, it was going to start off as announcing them over the announcements to come get their awards at the office,” Ferguson-Miller said. “And then parents complained about that, and then it went to, ‘We’re going to livestream it and you can watch it online.’ And I just think that these kids have worked so hard for the last two and a half years, and their parents have worked very hard to get them to where they are.” Ferguson-Miller also said she feels the district needs to intentionally reach out more to middle school students and create more events for them. “I think that these middle school kids get lost and there aren’t a lot of activities, and things have been lost for them,” Ferguson-Miller said. She said the need is even greater since FASD sends fifth grade students to middle school while many other districts do not. She also pushed for asking parents to participate. “Our parents work hard and they want their kids to do well, and I think that the parents should be involved in the things that they do,” Ferguson-Miller said. Board member Kelly Christiano said she felt that if middle school students don’t play sports, there is “literally nothing for them.” Like Ferguson-Miller, Christiano said she enjoyed the larger eighth grade appreciation when she was a student. She said she hoped the community would help the district add more opportunities for extracurricular activities. Board member Lisa Sturges said she was unsure why eighth grade appreciation was canceled after 2018, but agreed the district needed to reach out more to the middle school students. She said there is an increase in bullying and that “differences became more apparent” in those grades, making it harder for students to feel that they fit in. Haupt said he was “highly appreciative” of the efforts to bring back eighth grade appreciation. He said he wanted to know what the eighth grade students would like going forward, adding he didn’t think “their voices should go unheard in the future.” He felt it was too close to the date of the appreciation to change the plan and invite parents to attend this year. When asked what was preventing parents from attending, Haupt said he was unsure. Only two parents have inquired about attending, he said. Board President Jennifer Holz stopped the discussion by saying it was not something the board could act on, although she was glad the board was aware of the issue. Other business Sturges, the board’s newest member, was approved as the district’s representative for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Haupt thanked the board members for planning to attend the high school graduation ceremony scheduled for June 1. “I know that we have been doing a lot of work as a board and I just want to say, ‘Thank you’ to this board on many fronts but especially, our culminating activity every year to me is graduation,” Haupt said. “I honestly have, in my tenure as superintendent, been encouraging all nine members of a board to attend graduation every year, and this is the first year that I believe this is going to happen. So a credit to all of you for attending. It’s 13 years’ worth of work for our students and staff, so it’s certainly meaningful and I appreciate you attending, so thank you for supporting that.” Holz said the board planned to hold an executive session following the open meeting in order to discuss personnel matters. She said the board also held sessions on May 9 and May 16 for legal and personnel issues. The next regular board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, June 14. Meetings are held in the district board room and are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
On a split 6-3 vote, the Littlestown Area School District (LASD) school board approved a proposed 2022-23 budget that includes a 1% property tax increase. Voting against the budget were board members Jeanne Ewen, Nicki Kenny, and Shari Kruger. Kenny initially made a motion to table the budget “so that it may be sent back to committee or administration for a deeper look on how to remove the 1% tax increase.” Reasons given for tabling included that the information had not been received in a timely manner and that more study time for considering the budget was needed. The motion to table failed with only Ewen, Kenny, and Kruger voting in the affirmative. The district said more changes were likely to be made before a final vote in June. Four foreign exchange students, who hail from Brazil, Russia, Japan, and France and who have attended Littlestown High School this year, received accolades from principal Joey Moran. Following the board’s recognition, the students each presented a flag from their home country to the school. These flags will begin a tradition where future exchange students will add a personalized message to flags from their home country, or by gifting a flag of their own. The three April students of the month, pictured below, were honored with tales of laughter, achievement, and success. Student reporters from the middle and high school summarized end of the year testing, celebrations, and events for the board. Among the news: the high school prom was a success and all students are looking forward to their summer break, swiftly approaching in June. Beth Becker gave a report for the Thunderbolt Foundation. Some exciting highlights included the award of 5 Innovative Inquiry Grant Programs that provide teachers extra funds to support programs that are “above and beyond what teachers can do in the classroom, and using things that are not supported in the regular school budget.” The five winners, who represented elementary, middle, and high school will use their funds for projects including supporting homeless students with clothing and food supplies, using journaling to support student and staff mental health, and a circus project that will bring a week-long residency and culminating performance in the fall. The Thunderbolt foundation hopes these projects will increase inquiry and innovation for students who are able to participate in these efforts. Superintendent Chris Bigger spoke highly of the Senior Self Improvement Award Breakfast which has been organized by Bill Shoemaker and Walt Jones for the last 20 years. “This [event] highlights students who have overcome significant challenges in their home life, school life, and personal life. Some of the stories are heart-wrenching but schools attend the breakfast and it is a great ceremony, and families attend. It is neat to watch a student overcome challenges and then be confident enough to talk about it and share in a room full of people.” Upcoming Events: Spring High School Music Department Concert – Thursday at 6:30 Littlestown High Auditorium. Thunderbolt Foundation Clothing Drive – May 21st at Alloway Creek Elementary School Thunderbolt Foundation Golf Tournament – May 27th Fun Fest Summer Reading Kickoff – June 2 at Gettysburg Rec Park Graduation – June 3 at Littlestown High School Featured image caption: From left to right: Florence Vandersluys- France; Riko Kambayashi- Japan; Anna Titova- Russia; Maria “Duda” Marton- Brazil The next board meeting will be held June 20th at 6 p.m.
The Conewago Valley School District has included a substantial tax increase in its proposed Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget. District Business Manager Lori Duncan said the district can balance its budget with a millage of 14.8525, representing a 4.6 percent increase from the current rate. The rate is the maximum allowed under the state’s Act 1 limitations. Duncan said the district should receive more state funding than it does. “The state is [supposed] to provide about 50% of the support to the schools and as you can see, they’re only providing about 35.3%,” she said. Board President Edward Groft agreed, saying that the funding is based on student enrollment from 1997 and that approaching representatives and senators hasn’t helped. The board hopes to avoid touching the district’s fund balance of $7,808,751 during the 22-23 school year. “I will say that that fund balance, if we would have to dip into that every year, at some point we would not be sustainable,” Groft said. “So every time, we sit down and talk about what we need to do. What can we do to make sure we can still be here in 5 or 10 years, especially with our community growing the way it is? Keep in mind all of those figures up there are kind of bare bones. It’s what we can do, what we can offer to maintain what we have for every student in this population.” Duncan also pointed to charter school enrollment as a factor in the budget. On average, it costs the district $11,343 for a student to attend a cyber or brick-and-mortar charter school and $28,151 for a special education student to attend. With a total of 209 students, including 26 special education students, opting for charter schools, the district has $2,807,695 effectively “going out the door,” according to Duncan. “When we look at those numbers, it also gives us an idea of how much additional staff and programs we could offer if we had those funds staying in our district,” Duncan said. Duncan said that over the past several years, there haven’t been significant changes to the district’s financial situation. “You’ll see that we’ve taken some slight dips but we’re hanging in there pretty steadily and haven’t really been growing but we’re maintaining at this point in time,” Duncan said. Lynne Miller, supervisor of student services, said she will hold a meeting to discuss how to use Title funds. The meeting will be held from 7-8 p.m. Thursday, May 19 via Zoom and invitations will be sent to families and staff. The board will adopt the final budget during its board meeting in June. Other business Superintendent Sharon Perry announced that a new assistant superintendent, Robert Walker, will begin working on June 2. Perry previously served as the assistant superintendent before taking on the role of superintendent. The board unanimously reelected Luke Crabill as its treasurer. Stephanie Corbin, director of special education, shared a statement provided by a teacher. In the reflection, the teacher said she was anxious about working in a new position, and “terrified” after discovering students were below their grade level. The teacher soon realized how quickly the students would progress. “’I quickly found out that these students are some of the most hardworking, kind and motivated kids I have ever had in my career,’” Corbin read. “’Beyond that, I have seen incredible growth. I have students who have made two to three years of academic progress in just one year and they’re very excited about May, as we will be reading and studying our final novel of the year. My students have read three different novels with me in class this year. Knowing where we started in August, way below grade level, this is an incredibly huge feat for them. I watched their skills, confidence and their love of reading grow. I am so proud of their hard work, their focus and their amazing attitudes and perseverance.’” Corbin said the statement was an encouraging snapshot showcasing the “passion, the dedication, the commitment and the heart of our teachers and our students” in Conewago Valley. Recognition The board recognized several students for recent achievements: Aden Garcia was recognized for being named the New Oxford High School Rotary Student of the Month for April Brando Gonzalez was recognized for winning Best of Show in the Recyclable Art Contest held by the Adams County Arts Council Shaely Stabler was a nominee for the Gettysburg Times Spring Sports Athlete of the Week for April 11 Camden Elmo was named the Gettysburg Times Spring Sports Athlete of the Week for April 11 The board also noted 15 students who received college acceptances and 12 students who received scholarships totaling $1,379,450. Jonathan Makowski will receive a Teacher Impact Award from WITF. He will be given the award on May 24 at the WITF Media Center in Harrisburg. The board held executive sessions on April 11 and May 2, as well as meetings before and after the open meeting on Monday, to discuss “personnel, confidential and legal information,” according to the board’s agenda. The board will hold a study session at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 6 in the district office. The next regular board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 13 in the district office. Meetings are also recorded and posted to the district’s YouTube channel.
The Bermudian Springs school board approved a preliminary budget for 2022-23 that includes a potential tax increase of 4.7 percent, the maximum allowed under the state’s Act 1 limitations. The millage rate would move from 12.4656 to 13.0514. The board unanimously agreed to the preliminary budget, and voted 7-2 on the potential tax increase. Board members Jennifer Goldhahn and Travis Mathna voted against the proposed increase. Board President Michael Wool said nothing is set in stone. “Again, remember, this is not our final budget,” he said. “This is just setting our preliminary. At this time what we’re saying is our budget will not exceed the Act 1 index but could come in under.” To help meet the target of $18,771,398 in local revenue, the proposal included these taxes: Real estate – 13.0514 mills Act 679 per capita $5 Act 511 per capita $5 Act 511 earned income tax 1.2% Act 511 real estate transfer 0.5% Act 511 amusement 5% The board also approved on a 6-3 vote signing another year-long contract with Brooke Say, the district’s solicitor through Stock and Leader. Board Assistant Secretary Mary Kemper, Goldhahn, and Mathna voted against the approval. The board unanimously approved entering a contract with TherAbilities for speech and occupational therapy and with Ellen Nelson for school psychologist services, both on an as-needed basis. The board also unanimously agreed to buy a single student space at Yellow Breeches Educational Center for $30,856. Three people spoke during the time for public comment, with two bringing up the ongoing discussion to increase transparency. One parent said she appreciated efforts to create a syllabus for classes so parents can be up-to-date on what their child will be learning in the classroom, adding that she thought other parents would also be pleased with it. The second parent felt uncomfortable with a discussion her child’s class had on communism during a citizenship class. The parent said the teacher voiced “pros” of communism, and while the instructor did open the floor to students to voice opposing points, the bell rang before they had the opportunity to speak. The parent said she volunteered to speak about her thoughts on it based on her travel experiences, including in Yugoslavia and Hong Kong. While she did obtain a syllabus, she said she didn’t see the word “communism” mentioned in it. She asked that the schools keep it simple. “What we’re concerned about is that there are principles being taught to our kids that are not in line with our family values at home,” she said. “So sticking to the basics of math and science, historical literature and history. Let’s just leave some of these perspectives that we’re seeing all the time in media every day that’s coming out– let’s just leave them at home.” Jennifer Zerfing, a former board member, listed teachers she appreciated. She also commented on the citizenship class as her son was in the same class but had a different experience. “We had a very interesting discussion on communism and politics in general, and interestingly enough, after that class my son doubled down on his Republican-held views that may or may not be the same as mine and that’s fine… But I thought it was interesting that having a student in the same class kind of had exactly a different takeaway,” Zerfing said. “He felt that he was given a very good example of why communism isn’t what he would want for his country. I just thought that was interesting how two different kids can come from the same lesson and get a different takeaway.” Goldhahn took a moment to thank Dr. Shannon Myers, the district’s assistant superintendent, for her help in creating a template for class syllabi as part of the effort to increase transparency. “I just wanted to publicly say to Dr. Myers: Thank you for your hard work with the syllabus and I think we can move forward and go with the syllabus,” Goldhahn said. Myers gave credit to the teachers. “They’re the ones who provided input,” Myers said. “The format itself was easy for me. I’m looking forward to moving forward and getting something consistent in place for everyone.” Other business Ruth Griffie was unanimously re-elected as the board’s treasurer. The board approved the hiring of Joshua Korb as its next director of innovation. Korb will replace Kheila Dunkerly following her resignation. The board also approved the hire of several other individuals, including 11 summer custodians and 22 positions for Summer Experiences 2022 (STEAM Camp, Camp K and Literacy Camp.) It approved the resignation of Sonja Brunner, director of special education, effective June 8. Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss congratulated Myers for receiving the 2022 Wanda McDaniel Award from the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA). According to the website for PASA, the award is given to “an aspiring female administrator who shows evidence of great leadership potential.” Hotchkiss said he nominated Myers for the award. She will receive it at an awards banquet. Myers announced that United Way of Adams County chose Bermudian Springs to receive the 2022 health award in recognition of its contributions to the Bag the Bounty program. Myers said the district will be formally recognized during an awards ceremony on June 8. Hotchkiss noted that academic and athletic awards will be given next week and that graduation will be held soon. He encouraged the community to attend an event. “It’s one of the best times to be in a school district,” he said. “So stop by campus, see an activity, come to a concert. Our staff has done an amazing job to prepare our athletes, and our non-athletes and our band and choral students, and really, it’s a great time to kind of celebrate the gifted kids we have.” The board will hold a caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 13 and a regular board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14. Meetings are held in the auditorium of Bermudian Springs High School and are posted online to the district’s YouTube channel.
Adams County’s Collaborating for Youth (CFY) will be hosting a FREE and virtual Town Hall Meeting on Monday, May 23 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event will take place virtually on Zoom – please visit www.cfygettysburg.com for more information on how to access this event. The Town Hall Meeting is entitled “Youth Voices – Emerging From Covid” and is the first of a three-part series. CFY will present the 2021 Pennsylvania Youth Survey data results and trends of Adams County youth. This first event will feature drug & alcohol trends, the second event will be on youth mental health, held on June 27 and the third will be about risk & protective factors and youth attitudes held on July 25. All three events will be on zoom and will be at 6 p.m. The three events are open to all Adams County residents interested in learning about this important information. According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency website: “Since 1989, the Commonwealth has conducted a survey of school students in the 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades to learn about their behavior, attitudes and knowledge concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and violence. The ‘Pennsylvania Youth Survey,’ or PAYS, is sponsored and conducted every two years by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The data gathered in PAYS serve two primary needs. First, the results provide school administrators, state agency directors, legislators and others with critical information concerning the changes in patterns of the use and abuse of these harmful substances and behaviors. Second, the survey assesses risk factors that are related to these behaviors and the protective factors that help guard against them. This information allows community leaders to direct prevention resources to areas where they are likely to have the greatest impact.” Collaborating for Youth has worked with the school districts and community agencies in Adams County to analyze this data to understand the unique trends of Adams County Youth and to seek out needed services within the area. Collaborating For Youth is Adams County’s community-based, data-driven coalition that works to support positive youth development and substance-free, positive futures. For over 20 years CFY has continued to grow by supporting services and engaging new community groups to assure that their coalition is driven by the voices in the community they seek to serve. CFY is located at the Center for Youth and Community Development on 233 West High Street in Gettysburg, PA.
No tax increases were included in the Fairfield Area School District’s proposed budget during the school board’s meeting on Monday evening. The board held two back-to-back meetings, first holding its regular meeting, then going into a budget work session. Tim Stanton, the district’s new business manager, presented the draft budget to the board. Stanton explained that the budget was created using anticipated revenues and expenditures with little wiggle room in the line items. “There’s no padding in the budget, no surpluses built into the budget,” Stanton said. “And when you budget for what you think the actual revenue is going to be and what the actual expenditures are going to be, potentially you may have some surprises with some negative variances of things that come up that are unexpected at this time of year that will surface six months from now. And so to handle that, I traditionally put in a budget contingency built into the budget.” The contingency fund will be set at $100,000. “It’s not intended to be a slush fund that people can just go to,” Stanton said. “It’s for those unexpected circumstances, and to pull stuff from the contingency, you have to get permission from the superintendent to do so.” The district can raise its millage rate and bring in an extra $381,627, with the average taxpayer paying about an extra $70, but Stanton said he wasn’t requesting a tax increase for the 2022-23 fiscal year budget. Last year the increase was 2.08%. Stanton said higher anticipated earned income tax and real estate taxes helped increase the budget this year, preventing the need for a millage increase. “So you know when COVID hit, everybody thought, ‘We’re going to have a huge amount of unemployment,’” Stanton said. “People would be laid off and can’t go to work and that would have a huge negative impact to school districts’ earned income tax. In one of the budgets, it was dropped from the traditional amount of $2.3 million down to $1.6 million thinking that the pandemic would have a huge negative impact.” The FY 22-23 budget includes the original $2.3 million in estimated earned income tax revenue. It also adds an extra $79,952 of anticipated additional real estate taxes thanks to the assessed property values increasing by $7.7 million. It will all come together to equate to a surplus of about $188,955, according to Stanton. The budget also includes the third round of ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funding, which amounts to $408,470. Raising meal prices Along with Superintendent Thomas J. Haupt, Stanton recommended raising school meal fees to have a rate closer to that of districts in Adams, York and Franklin counties. Breakfast at the elementary school currently costs $1.25. Middle school and high school students do not have a school-provided breakfast. Lunch costs $2.65 at the elementary school and $2.85 at the middle and high schools. Adults are charged $3.85. According to Stanton, his queries to other nearby districts revealed that they average a rate of $1.46 for breakfast. Stanton suggested that the board increase the elementary breakfast fee from $1.25 to $1.45 and begin offering it to middle and high school students. He said that within the districts he communicated with, it was “atypical” for schools to not provide breakfast to high school and middle school students. Stanton said he wants to learn if students would be interested in a “grab and go breakfast” they could take to their first period classroom. Not offering breakfast to the older students is “kind of leaving money on the table,” Stanton said. Raising the amount of students eating breakfast would boost the amount the district is reimbursed for meals from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the district would receive more in subsidies for free and reduced meals. Stanton suggested that the district charge $1.55 for middle and high school students’ breakfasts to be close to the average of $1.54, with adults paying $2. Stanton advised the board to raise the lunch prices from $2.65 to $2.75 for elementary school students, from $2.85 to $2.95 for middle and high school students, and from $3.85 to $4 for adults. Haupt also asked the board to consider the suggestions to help cover costs and because the free meals offered for all students by the state will end on June 30. “During COVID, remember: Every meal that we serve, it is being reimbursed from the state at the free rate, and you see that that is the highest reimbursement that we get from the state,” Haupt said. Stanton said the extra reimbursements will result in a profit for the district’s food services this year that will be hard to match next year once the program returns to normal after June. According to Thomas and Haupt, the district used to raise prices about $0.10 per meal per year, but there have been no increases since 2016. Haupt said administration would likely recommend raising the prices again next year as the district continues to catch up to its neighbors. The board plans to vote on the proposed budget during its next meeting on May 23, then adopt a final budget on June 27. Elementary school pavilions Laura Gomba, president of the Fairfield Elementary School PTO, said the elementary school will receive two new pavilions this summer. Each pavilion will be set by a playground, one for older children and one for younger children. The largest will be installed by the older kids’ playground. Eventually, Gomba said the PTO hopes to add up to 10 picnic tables for the pavilions, but she did not have a firm date as the pavilions have not yet been constructed. “Thank you to all of the parents, too, for all of the fundraising this year, as well, because that got us a lot of support with this,” Gomba said. Other business Haupt said he attended the National Honor Society induction. He also noted the Dwight D. Eisenhower Senior Self-Improvement Award Breakfast recently held at Adams County Technical Institute. According to Haupt, four Fairfield students were among those honored. “And again, just a great recognition for our kids who have really overcome a lot in their lifetimes and have really displayed a lot of resilience, so a credit to those kids,” Haupt said. The board announced that it held executive sessions on personnel and legal matters on April 27, May 2 and May 4. The next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23. Meetings are held in the district board room and are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
As the Littlestown Area School District (LASD) proposed a school tax increase of one percent at its workshop meeting on Monday, parents and community members, many of them retirees, voiced their concerns. The tone of the meeting was tense throughout. Many residents expressed grave concerns about any kind of increase to their property taxes that were the result of building remodeling. “While there may not be a good time, there would certainly be a better time to raise our taxes. With inflation and increasing costs, now is not the better time,” said one concerned community member; other speakers echoed concerns about a rise in gasoline prices and day-to-day cost of living expenses. Parents and community members brainstormed various solutions to their concerns, from slicing district salaries that make up 70% of the current budget or asking teachers to forgo their annual raise. The district said only about 20 percent of expenditures were under their control. The district said expenses had been cut by $365,000 but that the tax increase was needed to meet current needs. The cost of the proposed tax increase would be $1.08 per month for a property assessed at $100,000, $2.15 per month for a property assessed at $200,000, and $3.23 per month for a property assessed at $300,000. Residents who are approved will receive an increase in the 2022-23 homestead/farmstead exclusion that will more than offset the proposed tax increase. Board members expressed an array of emotions during the meeting, some expressing concern about a lack of transparency regarding the current proposal including the lack of a line-by-line breakdown of expenditures. Other board members supported items in the proposed budget, especially those relating to mental health services. safety, and prevention. The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be on May 16 at 7:00 pm.
The Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) board of directors spent over an hour on Monday evening discussing their new budget. The discussion came after District Superintendent Jason Perrin and Business Manager Belinda Wallen proposed a 2022-23 budget that would include a 1.9 percent tax increase. The district said many cost increases were out of their control, mostly due to increases in personnel benefits. Perrin pointed out that the proposal was still in flux noting the district had cut about $931,000 in proposed expenditures in the last two weeks. The district said it had reduced its proposed building expenses by about $200,000 but that transportation costs would increase by about $200,000. Perrin said he “hated to raise taxes” but noted the increase is small, based on an expenditure increase of about 1.3 percent of which about 1.2 percent is salaries and benefits. Perrin noted the district has increased taxes at an average of only .66 percent since the 2018-19 budget year and that if the proposed increase was approved the average would move to .91 percent per year. Saying again that the goal was to have frequent small increases rather than infrequent large increases, he noted the increase would be about $54 per year for the average parcel. The district faces expenses of between $4.5-5 million for charter schools and $230,000 in unreimbursed free school lunch programs that occurred during the pandemic. Perrin said the only increase in expenses in the proposal was the creation of the new school resource officer program. Wallen said the only way to avoid a tax increase would be to move Kindergarten from full day to half day. The budget also includes a decrease in 4 professional and 3 classified positions. The proposed reductions will occur through staff retirements that are not replaced. Responding to concerns about foreclosures based on property tax increases, a county representative said there had only been two foreclosed properties in the school district over the past year and that the county always works with homeowners to make arrangements to pay the taxes. Responding to a question about the plan to cut staff positions, High School Principal Jeremy Lusk said they would be able to meet state requirements after the cuts but that the changes would affect course offerings. Lusk said the retirement of a math teacher would lead to higher course sizes, particularly among the upper-level courses. “Yes, it leads to higher class sizes. Our [higher-level classes] already run with high volume,” he said. Lusk said the other two positions were in Family and Consumer Science and Health and Physical Education. “It changes things,” he said. Board member Michelle Smyers asked for more details about the budget, including coaching salaries and mental health expenditures. Wallen walked the board through the broad expense categories, while saying a line item analysis could be provided before the next meeting. Hodges said she was against the increase and made a motion to table the budget, a motion that failed. Board member Ryan Davis said he was concerned with the need to continue raising taxes. “How do we operate within our means? We have to operate this like a business. Where do we cut? What do we do?” he asked. “Nobody wants to raise taxes,” said board member Tim Seigman. “If a household is paying $3500 in school taxes but they have three kids and it’s costing us $18,000 a piece to educate them that $3500 doesn’t do anything.” Only Hodges voted against the proposed budget.
My name is Jess Shelleman (Miss Jess to the kids) and I’m the Branch Manager at Littlestown Library. I’ve been in this position for over three years, and I truly love what I do. Where else can you run a baby story time in the morning, a STEM program for kids in the afternoon, and a murder mystery for adults in the evening?! And in between, you get to have conversations with local patrons of the community and help them find the books, movies, and information they need. I previously worked in a much larger library in a different library system, but it didn’t take long for me to adjust and come to love and appreciate my small-town library in Littlestown. Working in a smaller community really allows you to get to know those you serve. I’ve been a resident of Adams County my whole life, and have been a user of the Adams County Library System since I was a child, when the main library in Gettysburg was on East High St., a block from its current location. As a child and a teen using the Gettysburg Library, little did I know about the workings behind the scene that help to serve all areas of the county through the local branch libraries. From inter-library loans to weekly book rotations, the Gettysburg Library is the backbone of our system. You’ll find Littlestown Library right in downtown Littlestown in the South-Western corner of Adams County. Being just a few miles from York County and Carroll County, and only a few blocks from both the Littlestown Area Schools and Stoner’s Farm, we serve community members of all ages from the Littlestown area and beyond! While there’s been a library in Littlestown for many years, it moved to its current location at 232 North Queen St. over 11 years ago. Through the hard work, dedication, and generosity of many local community members and organizations, and the then newly formed Friends of Littlestown Library, the dream of a larger, more beautiful library to serve the community became a reality. One of my favorite parts of the library building is our large front window. You’ll often find small handprints on the lower level of the window, as we’ve found it’s the perfect spot for out littlest patrons to stare out and watch all the cars and trucks drive by. Every summer, we also use our window to celebrate the kids who participate in our SummerQuest reading program. Each time one of the kids reaches 200 minutes of reading, they get to put their name on a design and stick it up in the window. This summer’s theme is “Oceans of Possibilities,” so naturally we’ll be turning our window into an underwater landscape and filling it with fish and other deep sea creatures! Make sure to stop by this summer to watch our window ocean grow. Speaking of summer, we have lots of upcoming programs for all ages! While we offer programming year-round, the libraries of Adams County kick it into high gear for the summer months. We like to keep the kids and grown-ups busy all summer long. Most the programs at Littlestown Library take place in our community room, which is a great location for all sorts of programs. From story times to dinosaur bones, from video games to gardening talks, the community room is always a busy place of fun and learning. Stop by Littlestown Library and discover everything we have to offer!
Staff, students, and members of the community joined together at the Littlestown Area School District (LASD) board meeting on Monday night to celebrate the achievements of district students. The students addressed the board, reviewing many student activities, events, and sports news. The students spoke fondly of current events at their school and eagerly about upcoming events. Students also described the Cultural Week being orchestrated by the social studies department, saying all grades and students have come together in an act of cultural diversity and respect to promote interconnectedness throughout the building – from the 150 flags in the social studies wing to the food being served in the cafeteria. The high school prom will be held May 14th from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. with a theme of “rustic.” The district also honored the April Students of the Month: Ava Clark (2nd Grade), Kaily Miller (12th grade), Gabriel Eaves (12th Grade), Caden Schachle (5th Grade), and Jacob Duttera (6th Grade). The board said these students display some of the greatest qualities of motivated, successful, academically focused, and community-driven young people in the state. 33 of the district’s students attended the recent Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA) leadership conference and 3 of Littlestown’s own are heading to a leadership conference in Chicago in June. Graduating senior Nick Lovell, the PA FBLA State President, spoke of his time in the district. “FBLA has been one of the world-class opportunities that being a Littlestown student has provided me and I am confident that it will help many more in the future,” he said. Lovell helped create the bridge among online, hybrid, and in-person events and fundraising opportunities. Lovell said the district had a bright future ahead of it, and the district congratulated him on a job well done. The district also honored Heidi Merwede as the Adams County Educator of the Year saying that in her 9 years as an employee of the district, Merwede has exceeded in each of the qualifying areas to be not only an exemplary member of the district but also of the community. The board said Merwede was an advocate for students and a proud example of professionalism and dedication in the field of education. The board discussed the need for a new building to replace the Maple Ave. Middle School. Response to the plans was overwhelmingly positive from parents and community members as they spoke of accepting a tax increase to support the construction of a new building. Speakers said they hoped the building would provide safety, efficiency, and security for staff and students, and draw new members into the community. A point of contention was the purchase of a brand new 2023 Chevy 2500 Pickup Truck with a snowplow for a price of $44,000. “Does the county plow our lots or are we responsible for that? Do we not have other equipment that we could fix a snowplow to rather than spend $44,000 on a brand new truck?” asked board member Nikki Kenny. The board said the truck was already budgeted for and was necessary. The motion carried at a vote of 7-yes, and 2-no. Featured Image caption: Clark, Miller, Eaves, and Duttera. The next meeting of the LASD board of directors will be Monday May 9 at 6:00 p.m. at the Littlestown High School.
The Fairfield Area School Board has unanimously approved former Fairfield teacher Lisa M. Sturges as a new board member. Sturges currently serves as a volunteer. She said her time as a teacher will contribute to her success as a board member thanks to her knowledge of the daily life of a teacher. She also praised the district as a whole. “I came here and spent almost my whole career here because of the community, the parents, what I was provided with as a teacher, and the students,” Sturges said. She said she has enjoyed seeing former first grade students become parents in the district. Sturges said her time helping lead the local teachers’ association will also help her in her new position on the board. Sturges said she feels the district has done well, but noted that she benefited from workshops through the Lincoln Intermediate Unit when she was a teacher and would like to see more offered to teachers. She also cautioned the district to be aware of changing needs and practices within the field of education. “I think that with some of our current circumstances health-wise that we’ve had, we have gone more virtual… I think education is evolving because of that,” Sturges said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I think we have to learn how to mesh technology, which we were a little lagging in at times, with the students and how they’re learning today.” Sturges will fill the seat of former board member Richard Phillip, who resigned effective March 21 due to moving outside of the district. Her term will expire in December 2023. The board also unanimously voted to hire Sonja L. Brunner as the assistant to the superintendent for curriculum, special education and student services. Brunner currently serves as the director of special education for the Bermudian Springs school district, according to that district’s website. The board voted to approve Brunner’s four-year contract beginning June 1. Other business Superintendent Thomas Haupt and the board recognized Teacher Appreciation Week early as the board will not hold a regular meeting next week. Haupt said he has worked to get an idea of what teachers would appreciate and learned staff would enjoy food more than “trinkets,” he said. He is working with Crystal Heller, the district’s food service supervisor, on “surprises” for teachers for most days next week. The board also unanimously approved the Pennsylvania School Board Association’s (PSBA) seven Principles of Governance and Leadership. PSBA keeps a searchable public list of districts that have agreed to the list. “The first is ‘advocate earnestly,’ the second is ‘lead responsibly,’ the third is ‘govern effectively,’ the fourth is ‘plan thoughtfully,’ the fifth is ‘evaluate continuously,’ the sixth is ‘communicate clearly,’ and lastly, seven is ‘act ethically,’” Haupt said. Andrew Kuhn, athletic director for the district, said he is still working to set up a time to have a signing day for six student athletes. The date and time will be announced on the district’s website and social media accounts, according to Kuhn. Kuhn announced that the athletic awards night will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 25 in the high school auditorium. No one signed up to offer public comment during the meeting. The board will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 9 in the district board room. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
Saying they wanted to have the lowest tax increase necessary, Superintendent Jason Perrin and Business Manager Belinda Wallen presented the Gettysburg Area School District board with three potential draft budgets that involve either a zero percent, a two percent, or a four percent tax increase. The potential increases are necessary because expenses are expected to rise at an average of 2.7 percent across all categories, from $69.4 million 2021-22 to $71.3 million in 2022-23. The biggest increases are in property services and supplies, each of which are expected to rise about 11 percent. See the full budget presentation here. On the revenue side, state revenue is projected to remain the same at about $19 million, whereas federal revenue is expected to decrease to less than $1 million in comparison to the $1.7 million received during the 20-21 pandemic year. Expenses would have to be cut about $2 million to avoid a tax increase. Wallen said local revenue has increased by about $750,000, in part due to better collection practices. Wallen said there are still a lot of unknown variables, and that the district was working with the county assessment office to estimate the effects of new housing starts and collection percentage. The district said it has a $6.1 million fund balance and can use about $2.4 million of that to offset revenues and expenditures. The fund balance is set aside for spending in this year’s budget but also for unexpected expenses. Wallen said the district had been decreasing its reliance on using its reserve funds to balance the budget, but that doing so would likely be necessary again. Perrin said the district has been getting better at predicting revenue, and that the budget had only increased about 8% over the past 5 years. “We’ve done a really good job at controlling costs,” he said. The option of decreasing the reserve fund balance below the currently-mandated requirement was discussed but Perrin and Wallen said that might reduce the credit rating and increase borrowing costs. The district hopes to adopt a proposed budget at its May 2 meeting, which must be published 30 days before a vote on final adoption. New take on School Resource Officer GASD has been operating without as School Resource Officer (SRO) since about February 25 when a contract to provide services with the Cumberland Township Police Force ended. To address the problem, the district is developing a plan to hire SRO Police officers as part of the system rather than contracting with a service. Other school districts, including Chambersburg and Waynesboro, currently use that approach. The district is creating policies and a job description for the new program and expects to have one or more officers in place by early Fall. Officers hired by the district would complete a municipal training course as well as a national SRO training course. The district would then petition to the Court of Common Pleas which would authorize individuals to serve. The officers would be given permission to exercise police powers including carrying a firearm and making arrests. The district noted that local law enforcement agencies still respond to any emergencies that may arise in the schools.
The Upper Adams School District school board heard preliminary budget presentations for the fiscal year 2022-23 Tuesday. Business administrator Shelley Hobbs said there would be a shortfall of about $2.1 million that needs to be addressed. Projected estimates for the 2022-23 fiscal year show expenses of about $34 million but an estimated revenue of of less than $32 million. There are still a lot of unknowns in the new budget. State revenues are unknown and the proposed 2022-23 budget therefore does not include any increases in basic and special education or increases from payments for students enrolled at Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School. Estimated state revenues also do not include the Homestead Farmstead amount, which is not certified until May. The amount in previous years has been around $815,000. Expense challenges include contributions to charter and cyber schools as well as changes due to contract negotiations. Local tax collection revenue in 2022-23 is estimated to be shy of the expected 96.75 percent collection rate used for the 2021-22 year. “We have to close that gap somehow before we submit a budget quote; there is a lot of work to do,” said Board President Tom Wilson. “We really need better information on what the state is going to provide.” “There are still a lot of moving parts as we’re looking at budgets,” Hobbs said. For the current 2021-22 budget things are looking fine, with local, state and federal revenues anticipated to be higher than what was budgeted. “When the state budget was prepared last year it was done after the board had already approved the budget and we’re actually receiving additional funding in basic education and special education funding,” said Hobbs. Total revenue for 2021-22 will be about $32 million, including state revenue of about $13 million and local revenue of $17 million. The revenue is against about $31.5 million in expenses. Another change that improved revenues this year was the transportation subsidy. “Right now, I am seeing we have a positive variance of $565,879,” said Hobbes. Hobbs said the Adams County Tax Borough will assist in estimating projections for the new budget More updates will be presented as the board moves closer to the June for approving a final budget. The board expects to adopt and advertise the proposed final budget at its next meeting. The final approval will be June 21.
My name is Ryan Huffman, the Computer Systems Director at the Adams County Library System. While many of us can probably hazard a guess as to what that entails in a general sense, most of us have become so familiar with the devices we use every day, we don’t ever really stop to think about how those things work–but we certainly notice when they don’t. As the saying goes, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”, right? Well, there’s usually somebody behind the scenes fixing it regularly so it breaks a lot less frequently. I support devices at all 6 branches of the Adams County Library System including public access computers, circulation desk computers, printers, fax machines, telephones, scanners, tablets, laptops, projectors, etc. If it plugs into a computer or connects to the internet, I probably take care of it. There are currently over 100 desktop and laptop computers within the system that require semi-regular maintenance and updates to make sure things run smoothly. When computers are not updated, they can become slow and may start encountering problems, so updating devices before problems arise is generally a good idea. Luckily, with the right software, I can access many of those devices from right here in Gettysburg so I don’t have to spend most of my time traveling all over the county. One of the most important things I keep an eye on is the internet connections in each branch. Once a “nice to have”, readers on the younger side might find it difficult to imagine life without the internet but especially in more rural areas, reliable internet access can still be difficult to obtain at home. That’s one area where the library can be an essential technology resource to the community and because the Gettysburg branch is in a central location, it serves not only the residents in the borough but many of the small towns and villages in the surrounding area. But we don’t play favorites here at ACLS! Loss of internet can be just as inconvenient at a smaller market branch where there might not be a coffee shop down the street offering free WiFi. Even the circulation system at the library uses the internet to connect our library system to over 100 libraries all over Pennsylvania for interlibrary loans. Since I can access network devices remotely, keeping things running around the county frequently depends on a reliable connection right here in Gettysburg. So that’s what I do to keep things moving, but what do I do to keep things moving forward? To paraphrase an observation made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that later became known as “Moore’s Law”, the processing power in our devices doubles approximately every two years. Whether that feels like a blessing or a curse, technology keeps moving forward and we as consumers try our best to keep moving forward with it. To that end, another important part of my job is keeping up with technology trends and learning about how the library system can offer modern services to patrons without the benefit of an unlimited budget. A few years ago, a modest computer and a decent internet connection might be enough for the average user but with the new emphasis on distanced learning and remote meetings, a better network and faster computer could be required. The technological needs of a community can change over time and as a vital resource to those we serve, the library needs to keep up with those changes as much as possible.
The Littlestown Area School District is making use of its newly-revised resource materials policy (Policy 109) to consider challenges to 35 books currently in the high school library. The challenges came over the past weeks in a set of 15 books followed by another set of 20 books. District Superintendent Chris Bigger said the challenges were from Janell Ressler and that each was submitted on a separate form for the district’s consideration, as specified in Policy 109. Bigger said the policy, originally approved in 1990, was recently revised because it did not have a mechanism for challenges from the public and that the revisions took some time. “It takes time to put a quality product together, especially around an issue of constitutional rights. We’re thinking of it as a legal matter.” The updated policy specifies guidelines for the appropriateness of resources and an eleven-step process for handling complaints. Bigger said the district had created two committees, operating in parallel, which reviewed the first set of books “in a reasonable amount of time.” Each committee was made up of either a high school principal or assistant principal, along with three teachers and a parent. Five of the challenged books, “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, and “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson had already been approved by the school board as part of the current curriculum and were not reviewed. The committees evaluated the other 10 library books, “Sold” by Patricia McCormick, “Shine” by Lauren Myracle, “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “The Bluest Eyes” by Toni Morrison, “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chboski, “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo, “ttylb” by Lauren Myracle, and “L8R G8R” by Lauren Myracle. Bigger said Ressler’s objections to the first 10 books focused mostly on obscenity and/or mature content. The committee decided that each book did not violate standards and should therefore remain on the shelves. Ressler has appealed the decisions. According to the policy the appeal will be reviewed by the district’s Curriculum, Co-Curriculum, and Policy Committee and then, if necessary, by the full school board. Bigger said the committee members were trained to evaluate the books objectively, using a standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court case Miller v. California. The “Miller Test” for obscenity includes the following criteria: (1) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient interest’ (2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (3) whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The committee also took guidance from the American Library Association Bill of Rights. “We worked really hard to eliminate personal beliefs during the process,” said Bigger. “The policy helps the committee determine what standards to use as they read the materials. We work hard to keep bias and personal opinions out of the process.” Bigger said the committees took into consideration both community and age-based standards. “New York City and Littlestown might have different community standards,” he said. “And there is an age-appropriateness question. A book with mature themes might be inappropriate for elementary school but still appropriate in a high school.” Bigger said the policy ensured students’ access to books is decided by more than one person and therefore that any decisions to remove a resource would be more likely to stand up to any potential first amendment legal challenges. Explaining the district’s decision to keep the committee members’ names anonymous, Bigger said he was concerned about potential threats if the names were made public. He said some people had expressed concern due to the sensitive nature of the decisions and said it might be more difficult to get people to participate on the committees if their names were shared. “I don’t want people to be the discussion,” he said. Ressler has filed a right to know document requesting the names of the committee members. Bigger said he thought parents should be involved in making the decisions. “We’re not forcing these books on anyone. The community level of the family should come into play. When we have difficult decisions to make we always provide options and opportunities. Whenever you give parents choices we all can find common ground. It is when choices are removed that you end up with fewer freedoms and liberties,” said Bigger. Bigger said one potential remedy would be to require a parental permission sign off form on the books in question but that students were already reading very few books from the high school library. “In six years only 660 books have been checked out of the library,” he said. “There’s only one copy of each book.”
By Sherrie DeMartino, Branch Manager of the Carroll Valley Library In the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, the Adams County Library System was looking for a suitable location for a branch that would service the south-western section of Adams County. Their search finally paid off and a library branch was opened in the town of Fairfield in 2003. I became the branch manager of the Fairfield Area Library in 2004. At the time, besides being the newest, we were the smallest “brick and mortar” branch in the system. Technically, our smallest branch was our Bookmobile which drove all over the County visiting schools, daycares, and nursing homes, bringing the books to you. Our little library in Fairfield was great! We were small enough that we knew most of the patrons by name. We had public internet computers, movies on VHS (remember those?), a nice selection of fiction and non-fiction books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, and music CDs. Our patrons enjoyed the convenience of having library items sent to our branch, which was closer to where they lived and had lots of free parking. This service was (and still is) provided by our library delivery van which now runs six days a week to every branch in the County. A few years after we opened, my coworker, Crystal, joined the Adams County Library System, and has been doing wonderful children’s story times for us ever since. Some of you may remember coming to those when you were little! An added extra bonus was that we were right across the street from Ventura’s pizza! In the meantime, the Carroll Valley Borough needed to relocate their offices and police department. They wanted to build a beautiful new building that wouldn’t leak every time it rained. They also wanted their new place to be more of a community center instead of just office buildings, so they asked our Library System if we would consider relocating to the new building. We said yes! So, in 2017, we packed our books, and with a lot of help from the Boy Scouts and other awesome patrons, moved a few miles up the road to our new location in the Carroll Valley Park. We’ve been in our new library for five years already. Time flies! It’s a nice bright space with lovely views of the ski resort and the park. The Borough and Police employees are great neighbors and nothing beats our view of the park in the fall – it’s absolutely gorgeous! The park is also a great place to have outdoor programming and story times, as long as the weather cooperates! Although our library system no longer has VHS tapes and music CDs, we now have a huge collection of DVDs (classics, new releases, and everything in between). We have also added e-books and e-audiobooks that you can read or listen to on your electronic devices. These became incredibly popular during the pandemic and continue to be one of our most circulated items. We have public internet computers and offer fax, copying, and scanning services. Come and visit us and check out all that we have to offer! We have a lot of fun programs scheduled for the summer for children, teens and tweens, and adults. Hope to see you soon!
Bermudian Springs Elementary School needs a new playground, and the third-grade “SOAR Ambassadors” have already planned what they hope to see when the project is complete. The children shared their design with the Bermudian Springs school board on Tuesday evening. In addition to designing playgrounds, the 12 members of the SOAR team are tasked with engaging in positive behavior in school (Staying safe – Owning your actions – Always being responsible – and Respecting everyone). Ethan Sentz, assistant principal of Bermudian Springs Elementary, and David Morning, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) teacher for grades 3-6, introduced the children to the board. Sentz said the SOAR students were “almost like a student council and represent our student body in a positive way.” The children are experts on fun playground equipment, so school leaders consulted them. “When we were tasked with getting a new playground, this was kind of our first go-to of the perfect people to ask since they’re the ones that use it and their ideas matter the most in this regard,” said Sentz. Morning said contributing ideas for the playground let the children apply their skills to a project. “Mr. Sentz came to me with this idea that we wanted to do something more real world, so this idea of STEAM and this idea of engineering designing, allowing the students to design, ask questions, visualize what it is they would like to do,” Morning said. “Some of our steps in our process include just this idea of a needs/want/wishes, and then after they had some needs, wants and wishes they asked some questions.” The children followed a process to arrive at their final design. “They created a vision board, which they were able to look through a lot of different playground catalogs that our vendor uses to help design his playground,” Morning said. “So it was a great opportunity for our students and we were super excited to see their excitement through this process.” The board watched a video of the children explaining the problem – students need a new playground since the large red slide is unsafe – as well as a breakdown of what they wanted and needed. Some needs included safety rails and steps, while wants included monkey bars and a rock wall. The kids added items such as a merry go round and a zipline to their wish list. In the video, the children named their project budget, the age range for the playground and the minimum number of children it needed to accommodate at any given time as factors they had to consider. The video summarized the children’s evaluations of proposed designs and changes they suggested to better match their list of desired features. According to the video, the new playground will be added this summer. “I think that opportunity for them to have authentic learning is crucial, especially at such a young age, so I want to thank their parents for their participation,” Sentz said. Some board members directed questions to the four students present at the meeting, asking what they were most looking forward to having on the playground and what they would call the new playground. Public comment One individual approached the board during the time for public comment saying he had heard that there has been “in the middle school, maybe teachers handing out LGBTQ flags.” The speaker said he heard about it secondhand and wanted to voice his concerns if the story was true. Former board member Jennifer Zerfing also addressed the board. She praised specific teachers, pointing out the skills and qualities that make them assets to the district. Zerfing also took time to recognize students. “Many of them are genuinely interested in promoting unity in our district,” Zerfing said. “They are looking around the world and deciding that they don’t want to live in a world without– that they want to live in a world without discrimination. I’d like to give a shoutout to the students who are standing up for others. It takes courage to evaluate ourselves and identify implicit biases that we might not even know that we have. These students who strive for unity and the teachers who set an example of how to treat everyone with respect and kindness give me hope for the future.” The board approved the time and date for the graduation ceremony. It will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, May 27 at the high school stadium, with a rain date of 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 28. The next regular board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10 in the high school auditorium. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
The Fairfield Area school board still has an empty seat as no one has yet applied for the position. During the school board’s meeting on Monday evening, Superintendent Thomas Haupt suggested advertising for the opening again, with a new deadline for applications set for noon Friday, April 22. If eligible applicants submit materials by the deadline, they could be interviewed during the regular board meeting on April 25. The position was briefly held by Rich Phillip. Phillip resigned due to moving outside of the district, according to an email from Thomas Weaver, former business manager for the district. The board accepted his resignation, which was effective as of March 21, during its last regular meeting on March 28. The first time the board advertised for the position, it planned to interview candidates on April 11 and name a new board member on April 25. Other business Andrew Kuhn, district athletic director, said the district held its first signing day last week. A second signing day for about five more student athletes will be held soon, he said. The date has not yet been announced. William Mooney, district buildings and grounds supervisor, said three of the four lights in the parking lot are out but will be replaced soon. Mooney also recommended the board contract with a company to remove dead trees and trim others for safety. The board hired a full-time instructional technology assistant and a second shift custodian. Mooney has informed the board in previous meetings that he hoped to hire custodians, telling the board in October that he had fewer second-shift custodians than normal. There was no public comment. Board Vice President Jack Liller said the board held closed sessions for personnel matters on April 4 and before the meeting on Monday. Liller also announced the district received a $100 donation from the Mansion House 1757 Inn. Fairfield will hold its next regular school board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 25. Meetings are held in the district board room and are livestreamed through the district’s YouTube channel.
Conewago Valley School District may soon have a new booster club, according to an announcement made during the school board’s meeting on Monday evening. Doug Wherley, athletic director for the district, said some parents hope to renew the “all-sport booster club” soon and have already begun suggesting ideas. “They also want to make sure each team has the ability to raise funds individually for their individual teams, as well,” Wherley said. “We’re hoping this can help bring more community spirit as well as team pride to all of our New Oxford teams.” A student’s concerns During the time for public comment on non-agenda items, a junior at New Oxford High School expressed worry for students’ safety. The student said she felt some students exhibit dangerous behavior unchecked by school staff. “Some of the teachers and staff are continuing to act as friends instead of mentors towards the students,” the student said. The student said she wanted to see students disciplined for poor behaviors as necessary. “I graduate from this high school in 13 months and I wish for those last 13 months to be spent not in fear, but in relief– relief that the staff no longer treats students as friends but as students only,” she said. Fundraising Dr. Stephanie Corbin, director of special education for the district, said a group of students made 27 polar fleece blankets to gift to children in Ukraine. Autumn Zaminsky, principal of Conewago Township Elementary School, said the school is preparing for a Color Run on May 20. At the time of the board meeting, the school had raised nearly $14,000. Larry Sanders, principal of Conewago Valley Intermediate School, said the school has raised almost $19,000 for Mini-THON. The event has the theme, “Yes, We Ken” in honor of the late Dr. Kenneth Armacost, according to Sanders. Armacost passed away last year soon after retiring from his positions as principal of CVIS and as a girls’ volleyball coach. Mini-THON will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 6. Christopher Bowman, principal of New Oxford High School, said the school recently pulled in $24,425 during its first annual Mini-THON. Bowman said the amount was “not too shabby” for the school’s inaugural Mini-THON. Recognition Superintendent Sharon Perry said she has appreciated hearing thoughts from the student advisory committee. The committee recently held its last meeting with Perry. The superintendent said she helped the students understand the district’s feasibility study after they expressed interest in it. “That was a lot of fun to hear our next generation become interested within their school community,” Perry said. “So we may have some budding board members in our future.” Perry thanked the students for sharing their thoughts with her. The board also recognized Zaminski, who was given the H. Edgar Wisehaupt Outstanding Principal of the Year award from Penn State – Harrisburg. Adam Farmer was acknowledged as the New Oxford High School Rotary Student of the Month in March. Two athletes were also named: Ella Billman, who joined the YAIAA-2 first team in girls’ basketball, and Timberley Linebaugh, who was added to the YAIAA-2 second team. Two additional students were also honored for their recent art accomplishments in a Gettysburg Times advertisement designing competition. Sarah Beeman received first place in the contest and Alayna Diviney was given an honorable mention. Perry said the district recently honored its assistant principals but she offered her personal thanks at the meeting. “They’re often the front line with our children and our families, so it is with much gratitude and appreciation and love that I want to say, ‘Happy Assistant Principals Week’ to all of our assistant principals and those who act on behalf of an assistant principal within our district,” Perry said. Other business The board unanimously voted to stop the Conewago Valley Online Academy for grades K-8 once this school year concludes. The board also accepted a donation of $500 from Bermejo Auto Sales for the boys’ lacrosse team. Perry will hold two more coffee talks before the end of the school year. The events provide the opportunity for parents, guardians and other local residents to chat with the superintendent. The coffee talks will be held from 9-10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 28 and on Monday, May 16. Both will be held in the district board room. The board will hold its next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 9.
Faculty at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, have voted to affiliate with the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). The PSEA will represent full-time and adjunct faculty in collective bargaining with the College. “The faculty have made their decision, and we respect that,” said HACC President and CEO John J. “Ski” Sygielski, MBA, Ed.D. “We will work with the PSEA to reach a fair and equitable contract from both the College’s and faculty’s standpoint.” The faculty vote was 335 “yes” and 198 “no” to affiliate with the PSEA. The results still need to be certified by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. The agreement includes the approximately 60 full-time and part-time faculty at the Gettysburg HACC campus. The campus has about 1,300 students. The union will be the sole voice for all faculty on all matters relating to wages, benefits and working conditions. Any changes to benefits or salary will be subject to the collective bargaining process.
Two Carroll Valley students swept the Middle School division of the Frederick County, MD 41st Annual Secondary Science and Engineering Fair last week by combining their love of horses with their interests in engineering and veterinary medicine. Emma and Sarah Simmons, 7th grade students at Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg, MD, were named the Overall Middle School Grand Prize winners at the competition. They also won 1st place in the Middle School Biomedical Engineering category. In their engineering project, “Portable Bronchodilator Delivery System for Equine Inflammatory Respiratory Diseases,” these two 12-year-old twin sisters developed a uniquely portable method of administering life-saving medication to horses with respiratory diseases such as asthma. The Simmons girls, both of whom are avid equestrians, engineered a mechanism that dispenses bronchodilator medication while the horse is being ridden. Because the rider is not required to return to a stable and dismount before administering medication, this system has a broad range of applications, Emma and Sarah explained, including mounted law enforcement who use horses for urban crowd control, farming and ranching, and horse event competitions. In addition to the County Science Fair prizes, the Simmons students were acknowledged with several industry-sponsored awards including the Broadcom Masters top prize. This makes them eligible to compete in the national Broadcom Premier Middle School Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Competition held in Washington, DC in the fall of 2022. Nominees for this by-invitation-only competition are chosen among the top 10% of the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders nationwide. Emma and Sarah, the daughters of Dr. Jeffrey A. Simmons and Dr. Lisa S. McLeod-Simmons, both university professors, were also presented with the Hively Family Inventor Award and the Lemelson Early Inventor Prize at the Frederick County science competition. Emma, who is interested in veterinary medicine, and Sarah, who wants to follow her grandfather and uncle into an engineering field, both expressed how honored they were to receive these awards. When asked how they came up with such a unique project, Emma and Sarah explained. “We’ve been riding for about 3 years now and one of the horses we ride has asthma. The horse is named Wesley and he is a beautiful thoroughbred. When we ride him sometimes he has difficulty breathing, “ Emma said. Her sister, Sarah, continued, “Our riding coach gives Wesley steroid shots to help prevent the asthma attacks. These work, but not always very well and there are side effects. And the nebulizer requires that the horse be in the stable where there is electricity for the nebulizer pump and the horse can be kept still while he’s wearing the inhaler mask. And like most horses, Wesley does not always wait to stay still.” The girls said that when their science teacher at Mother Seton School, Danielle Kuykendall, told their science class that they would all need to develop a science project for the school Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fair, their thoughts turned to their horse. Emma said, “If we are out on a ride and the horse has an asthma attack, it’s hard to get back to the barn and it’s not always very easy or safe to just stop, get off the horse, give him a shot, and then wait 30 minutes.” Sarah noted, “We knew there had to be a better way of making sure the horse we ride is healthy and that he and we are safe when we ride.” Several months later and after some experimentation, they had developed a way to administer medication for equine asthma from the saddle and without having to take the horse back to the barn. Emma and Sarah both said that their parents were a great help and that their riding coach, Mike Hillman of Emmitsburg, and his horse Wesley were inspirations for them. They also had high praise for their science and math teachers at Mother Seton School, Danielle Kuykendall and Sharon Beard. “It’s amazing how much the math and science we learned in school helped us,” Sarah said. “Our teachers are the absolute best in the world,” Emma added. The STEM Fair was held Saturday, April 2. More than 75 judges from the area reviewed dozens of projects entered by 86 students from 17 schools across the county. Featured image: Sarah Simmons, left, and Emma Simmons, right
Upper Adams School District (UASD) school board welcomed Mikel Grimm as its newest board member Tuesday. The vacancy resulted from the recent passing of board member Bruce Hollabaugh, and Grimm was chosen to complete his four-year term. The board was legally required to fill the vacancy within 30 days and interviewed seven applications. Grimm is fluent in Spanish and is committed to supporting the 30 percent of district students who are Latino. She actively works as a member of the Latino Task Force, Healthy Adams County, Adams County Food Policy Council, and Manos Unidas. Grimm is the Human Resource and Safety Manager for the Adams County Nursery. As the manager of nursery’s H-2A contract labor program, Grimm works with contracts and applications to support the migrant community. Grimm said she hopes to create a more welcoming school environment for minority students, to be an outreach for voices that do not usually get heard, and to assist underrepresented groups. “Not necessarily race, but students who tend to not fit in the box,” she said. Grimm recently worked with Penn State Extension to implement a supervisory training for agricultural supervisors in Spanish. “Seeing those individuals finish the training and the glow in their eyes when they received their certificates is a moment I will never forget,” she said. “One individual in particular called his mother in Mexico and showed her his certificate, and with tears in his eyes told me that it was the first time in his life his mother told him she was proud of him.” “I think that ensuring everyone has an equal chance to an education and a positive experience should be the number one priority,” she said. School Board President Tom Wilson thanked the seven applicants for their time and willingness to step up and volunteer for the district and urged all applicants, and anyone interested, to continually support the district. “It is very heartwarming to see members of the community step forward to do this. You have our collective thanks and my personal thanks,” he said.
By Barbara Buckley, Branch Manager of the Harbaugh-Thomas Library The Harbaugh-Thomas Library in Biglerville has been serving Adams County since 2007. It is a lovely place to work. Bountiful windows let in the sunlight and provide a front row seat to the ever-changing panorama of weather. In my 8 years as the Branch Manager I’ve seen numerous beautiful rainbows arching beside the water tower in the distance, and it is not unusual to see teens in the courtyard around prom time having their pictures taken in formal attire in front of the rose bushes. The Harbaugh-Thomas Library is the only library in the Adams County Library System (ACLS) that was built to be a stand-alone library. While I was not involved in the creation of this library, I benefit from the work of the ACLS, Marion Harbaugh and the Harbaugh-Thomas Foundation. Sisters Marion Harbaugh and Jean Thomas, Biglerville residents and owners of the Thomas Country Store in Biglerville, generously provided funding and worked with the Harbaugh-Thomas Foundation and ACLS to create a building that can accommodate all the roles that a modern library fills. Like all the library branches in the county, the Harbaugh-Thomas Library offers storytimes, educational programs, books, movies, space for reflection and reading, excellent wi-fi, book clubs and more. There are also two meeting rooms available for scheduled use by the community. We’ve even had a few weddings here! The Teen Center is our latest addition, which has been open for a total of one year. It is a place to unwind, check out the manga and graphic novels lining the wall, use the computers, or participate in an organized library program. Lately tabletop gaming, afternoon movies and ping-pong tournaments have been popular! Our staff of four–myself, Zach, Alba and Danielle–rely on each other’s knowledge, experience, and talents to serve our patrons. While Bruce is not a direct member of the Harbaugh-Thomas staff, he is also an invaluable part of our team. If you’ve seen the ACLS van around town, you may have seen Bruce at the helm. When patrons request a book that is at one of the other 5 ACLS branches, or when Gettysburg Library staff unpack, catalog and process new books, Bruce brings these and other resources to us. Among my duties, I supervise the day to day operations of the branch and provide service at the circulation desk. I schedule others to lead programs, and I facilitate programs including a book club for adults and storytimes for kids. I enjoy selecting young adult books for ACLS, and serving on the committee for Adams County Reads One Book. The variety of tasks keeps life interesting. I remember my first visit to the ACLS in 1998 after I moved here from Tulsa, Oklahoma. My oldest son was 3 and we were adjusting to the move. We didn’t know anyone. I went from working a full time position away from home, to being a stay at home mom on a limited budget. The library seemed like a good place to go. The children’s librarian at the Gettysburg Library, Doris, introduced herself and made a point to learn my son’s name. I remember this simple connection 25 years later! Three years after meeting Doris, she hired me for a part-time position in the children’s room, where I worked for 12 years, until managing the Littlestown Library for a year and a half, and then moving to my current position at the Harbaugh-Thomas Library. I have a special place in my heart for the way libraries connect us to people, resources, ideas and the community at large.
The Fairfield Area school board accepted the resignation of one of its members on Monday evening. Richard Phillip, a board member and PSBA legislative chairperson, resigned effective March 21, according to the board agenda. His resignation was unanimously approved along with the rest of the board’s consent agenda. No reason was given for Phillip’s resignation. He joined the board in December 2021. The district will accept applications for the opening through noon Friday, April 8. According to information posted to the district’s website, candidates will be interviewed during the regular board meeting on April 11. A candidate will be named during the meeting on April 25. The appointment will be effective starting April 26. The board unanimously approved a replacement for its business manager and board secretary, Tom Weaver. Tim A. Stanton will begin work on April 11. “I look forward to working with the staff and working with your superintendent and working with the board through the superintendent, all for the purpose of trying to make the best education possible for the students based on the resources that are available to us,” Stanton said. Weaver said he is preparing information for Stanton to make it easier to take his place. “Let me also say on a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to work with all of you over these last seven months,” Weaver said. “It’s been a challenge but it has been rewarding. I can certainly say there are a tremendous amount of dedicated people here in this district, as you all know, and it’s been a real pleasure to work with them.” On behalf of the board, Board President Jennifer Holz thanked Weaver for his service to the district. Other business This summer, the district may install about 75 smart boards, according to Kaleb Crawford, coordinator of computer services and technology. Crawford said his initial plan to order smart board brackets was derailed when he realized the mounts were on backorder for over a year, but he was able to co-design new brackets with a machine shop. Crawford said he hopes to begin installing the new smart boards when the school year ends. Each building will receive about 25 smart boards. The money will come from ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) II grant funds, according to Superintendent Thomas Haupt. Honey Strosnider, the board’s student representative, said the Foreign Language Club is seeking toiletries and first aid items to donate to Ukraine. A representative for Fairfield Youth Basketball gave two checks to the board. One was a $500 check for the girls’ high school basketball team to thank them for assisting with two basketball clinics. The other was a $2000 check for the boys’ basketball team, which helped with clinics, refereeing games and other tasks, according to the representative. The board will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11. Meetings are held in the district board room and are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube page.
Saying they were often disruptive, the Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) Policy Committee has proposed a draft policy that would limit the use of electronic devices in the high school to educational endeavors. The policy, which would provide tools for potential discipline by administrators, would become part of the student handbook and would make the high school policy match more closely with the current policy at the middle school. The new policy would take effect next fall. “We want to make sure we’re mitigating against improper use,” said District Superintendent Jason Perrin. “This policy strengthens our administrators’ ability to deal with those types of things.” High school principal Jeremy Lusk said high school was different from middle school and that cellphones were “part of life.” He said the policies would primarily deal with the use of phones in hallways and in the cafeteria and that in the classroom the current rule was “stow your phones.” “There’s all kinds of good and all kinds of bad coming from cell phones. Students are interacting with the world socially. I don’t know if a nuclear option is the best option,” he said. Lusk said teachers frequently use their phones to share what’s happening in the schools on social media. Board member Tim Seigman said he was concerned about administrative overreach for students who needed to occasionally use their phones for valid reasons such as a diabetes check or answering a text from parents. He asked the district to take a middle ground. Board member Ryan Morris said he was in favor of a strict policy and that students who need to use a cell phone in an emergency situation could do so at the principal’s office. Morris said he thought imposing rules was important and that the district was too lenient. “Our job is to teach them in this environment. I have five kids in this school system, two of which are in middle school. The stuff that has come in my home through these cell phones is ridiculous. I want action,” he said. “We have to teach these kids to go out in society and be members of society and deal with rules.” Board member Michelle Smyers noted that alerts are constantly being sent to childrens’ phones. Board member AmyBeth Hodges said she was forced to “reprogram” students who were used to using their phones at school when they were hired at her business. “I have to completely retrain them that the phone is not OK at work,” she said. The policy will be reconsidered at the next board meeting on April 4.
By Marcia Howe, Treasurer, Friends of Trone Memorial Library in East Berlin There are many ways to get lost in the world these days. One of the best ways, though, is in a good book. Libraries offer thousands of ways to lose yourself in stories that go well beyond their walls. You can be transported to a different time, a different place, a different culture – all while curled up in your favorite comfy chair. The Jean Barnett Trone Memorial Library of East Berlin is one of Adams County’s six libraries and is right in the heart of downtown East Berlin. And, there is a group of book loving fans that cherish this fabulous place – a group called the Friends of Trone Memorial Library. If you are not familiar with Friends groups, they are library support groups that raise funds and awareness of the libraries in their community. The people that join and run them can best be described as supportive, helpful, generous, enthusiastic, altruistic, good hearted, —well, you get the point. The Friends of Trone Memorial group is a fairly new group that just started in early 2021. After their first partial year in operation, they were able to donate $7,000 in funds they raised directly to the Jean Barnett Trone Memorial Library. The Friends have many generous members in the community and continue to grow. Through outreach to local businesses that support the cause and want to keep the library up and running in their community, and through talking to members that join, they’ve found how much the library means to so many people. One of the hallmarks of the Friends of Trone group is the used bookstore on the lower level of the East Berlin library. It is run entirely by volunteers, who have busy lives, but find the time to help out when they can. You can visit the library on Saturdays and Mondays, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Carla VanCuren is the devoted, enthusiastic, outgoing store manager there and makes everyone feel at home when they walk in. Fun fact – Carla was related to Jean Barnett Trone! When not at the bookstore, the volunteers work on outreach in the community. They are excited to be taking part in the upcoming East Berlin Community Easter Egg Hunt on April 9, 2022, at the East Berlin Community Park. Make sure you come by and say “Hi”! Friends secretary, Jackie King and bookstore manager, Carla are always on the lookout for new and fun ways to get out in the community and have the community become more aware of the gem we have in the Jean Barnett Trone Memorial Library. There are book sales, yard sales, trivia nights, and more planned for their 2nd year as a Friends group. In fact, the next fill-a-bag book sale will be coming up June 1st through the 4th. In fact, the bookstore will have a fill-a-bag sale in conjunction with every book sale the East Berlin Area Community Center has. So, if you are in the area for that sale, swing on by to the library’s lower-level bookstore, too. The generous amount of book donations that have been coming in lately have been keeping inventory in the store fresh each time you visit. These ladies can’t do it alone, though. In fact, the Friends of Trone group is actively looking for additional members to join the board and keep more ideas coming in. If you are able to share your time and can see yourself as part of the Friends of Trone, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time you are in East Berlin (Saturdays and Mondays, 10am – 2pm), make sure to stop in to see your Friends.
The Conewago Valley School District named its new assistant superintendent during the school board’s meeting on Monday evening. Dr. Robert Walker was unanimously voted in to fill the role, which has been left empty since Dr. Sharon Perry left the position and became the district superintendent on Dec. 1, 2021. Perry has been providing reports to the board for both the superintendent and assistant superintendent roles. Walker is expected to begin work on June 2, or “upon release from his previous district,” according to the agenda notes. During her report to the board, Perry also applauded the recent student production of “Shrek the Musical.” “It’s something that our community truly looks forward to,” Perry said. “There was a lot of scuttle in the community about how good it was, how funny it was and how perfect the characters were for those who played it.” Reports Lynne Miller, supervisor of the student services office, said the district passed its McKinney-Vento monitoring “with flying colors.” The Education for Homeless Children and Youths (EHCY) program is part of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act and is intended to ensure homeless children have access to the same level of education as their peers, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Miller said there were several positive elements to point out. “There were a few technical things that we definitely did well, but what made me really proud as a Colonial was that there were so many opportunities for me to share the things that our whole school community does to support those in need: pictures of closets full of clothes, school supplies, toiletries that can be shared with anyone in need, multiple Christmas programs that are run by the building teachers and students alike,” Miller told the board. “Just so many different opportunities to work together as a team to support the Colonial family.” Miller said the district is also pursuing a mental health grant that could help support its teens. Conewago and the Upper Adams school district have teamed up in hopes of winning a grant. “Their target is going to be to create a staff member for their roles where they would be able to go between the two different districts at the high school level and create a check in/check out program for the high school students that are at risk – dropping out, disciplinary infractions– to really give them a person to connect to at the school where they’re doing a daily check in,” Miller said. Miller said the district and its partners won’t know the outcome of the application until closer to the end of the school year. She said the team is already beginning to plan how it will finance the program after the two-year grant limit should it receive the funds. Miller also noted that the next Title One family night will be held on May 4 at Conewago Township Elementary School and will include a pet theme. Achievements Multiple individuals and groups were recognized during the meeting, including Sydney Christner, the first-place winner of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Voice of Democracy speech contest. According to the agenda notes, Christner will participate in the national competition this month. According to a January press release from the Pennsylvania VFW, Christner is a junior at New Oxford High School and received an award of $5,000 along with other prizes. The theme this year was: “America: Where do we go from here?” Christner was one of 2,196 students competing in the contest, according to the release. One young artist, Lilliana Mejia, was recognized by the board for creating the art that will be used on the district’s planned birthday card. Makenzie Yingling was honored for being named the Rotary Club’s New Oxford High School Student of the Month in February. The board also learned that there were 76 inductees recognized during the high school’s second annual honor society induction on March 3, with 22 students admitted to honor societies. Autumn Zaminksi, principal of Conewago Township Elementary, said community members are invited to the school’s first Color Run. The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m Friday, May 20. The board held an executive session following the public meeting in order to discuss legal matters. The board’s next study session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, April 4. The next regular meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 11. Both meetings are scheduled to take place in the district office. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
The Fairfield Area School District may be able to select a new business manager soon, according to an update the school board received during its meeting on Monday evening. Superintendent Thomas Haupt told the board that the district is eyeing a replacement for Thomas Weaver, the district’s current business manager. The board approved Weaver’s planned resignation during its meeting on Feb. 14. Weaver plans to resign on or by April 1, according to the agenda from that meeting. Haupt said talks about Weaver’s potential replacement are “progressing very positively” and indicated a decision could come quickly, saying the board may need to hold a special meeting before its next regular meeting on March 28. Haupt said applications for the position of special education supervisor are due by Friday and he would like to hold interviews with candidates next week. Daniel Watkins, the current supervisor, will resign on June 30. His resignation was approved at the same time as Weaver’s resignation. The district has had no luck finding candidates for the school nurse position so far, according to Haupt. The board unanimously approved hiring two middle school volleyball coaches. John Horrell Jr. was hired as the head coach and Kathleen Ferguson was hired as the assistant coach. Athletic Director Andrew Kuhn said the district is looking for game workers. Weaver apprised the board of a cafeteria grant available through the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The grant opportunity is being provided due to concerns about the supply chain. Weaver said that if the school is awarded the grant, the cafeteria could receive at least $5,000. Kaleb Crawford, coordinator of computer services and technology, said the district’s cable upgrade efforts are now finished. The cabling was upgraded to Category 6, or Cat 6, Ethernet cabling. All connected devices are now working, he said. Board President Jennifer Holz called for the board to hold a moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting to honor the memory of the late Earl Shutt. Shutt served on the school board until the end of 2021, when newly elected members took their place on the board. In November, Dr. Larry Redding, the interim superintendent at the time, awarded Shutt and other board members a certificate of appreciation for his service. Shutt was also a recipient of the Gettysburg Connection Outstanding Contribution Award. Shutt passed away on March 10. No one addressed the board during the time for public comment. Holz announced that the board held an executive session to discuss legal and personnel issues on both March 10 and March 15. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, March 28. Meetings are held in the district board room and are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
There is no denying the real learning for real life value of an agriculture curriculum for high school students. Farming, and its wide range of crops, are linked to physical activity, a better quality of life, and a potential source of revenue. Jesse Brant, Chair of Littlestown High School’s Agriculture Department, prepares his students for a world beyond the classroom. Agriculture, Agricultural Construction, Horticulture, and Plant and Animal Science are among course offerings. In addition, classroom learning and hands-on experiences present an unmatched learning experience, transferable to marketable skills. The greenhouse, adjacent to the classroom, and the vegetable garden, in full view from the greenhouse windows, give one the feel of a farmer’s market. Donating to the community is important to the students; the food bank and the Littlestown Garden Club are among recipients. “Corn Day” is a highlight for Littlestown Elementary School kindergartners. They enjoy garden fresh corn for lunch. Also, a room next to the classroom resembles a barn and houses two Holstein calves, a donation from one of the students, and an antique tractor under restoration. With so much to explore and learn about, this writer asked students why they enrolled in the class. Liliana loves nature and likes seeing plants grow. Christian enjoys the process, from seed to growth. Nicole enjoys taking care of plants and ensuring their health. Corn is Madison’s interest, particularly the biology of corn growth. Gwenith’s reason was sentimental; she grew up on her grandmother’s farm. Sadly, the barn that carried pleasant memories burned down. Faith loves agriculture and comes from a family of farmers. Sam loves horses and lives on ten acres. He also works at the Littlestown Farmers Market. Rebecca loves watching colors develop in different flowers. Aydan was always interested in Rotary and horticulture. Growing your own is very important to him. Matt likes hands-on learning and grew soybeans for a statewide competition. Dylan is always around crops and animals on his family’s dairy farm. After graduation, he plans to move out west, preferably Montana or Wyoming, and work on a cattle farm. Photos by Patricia Green
At the Littlestown Area School District’s (LASD) school board’s work session on Monday, members were given a presentation on the progress of the capital project that would merge the Maple Avenue Middle School and the Littlestown High School. Christopher Linkey and Andrew Blayton, representatives from RLPS Architects who are drawing plans, presented a timeline of the project’s next steps. At the end of April 2022, RLPS will deliver a schematic design presentation to the board for review and approval. After decisions are made, the timeline moves into an Act 32 Hearing in August 2022. This public hearing is necessary as a part of the requirements of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Upon completion of the Act 34 hearing, with all comments and discussions taken into consideration, RLPS will present the design development plan for review and approval of the board. This will be followed by construction document review and an authorization to begin accepting bids. The review and awarding of bids for the project would be finished around May 2023. Board member Nikki Kenny asked whether costs would be locked in for the project in relation to possible continued inflation. “When you receive bids,” said Linkey, “the contractors give you a price and then they have locked in that price.” There has been an abundance of feedback on the capital project. “We could design a building a vacuum,” said Blayton, “but it wouldn’t be a building that meets your needs.” During the capital project process, a guiding coalition made up of 34 members including teachers, administrators, and staff has been meeting monthly to iron out details and address goals for the capital project. The coalition has had break-out groups, fishbowl discussions, and decision grids regarding concepts, grade alignment, and how the building would be organized for usable space. A history of the project to date, schematics, the feasibility study, and other information on the capital project is available on the district’s website at www.lasd.k12.pa.us. See the blue block link titled “Consolidation of MS/HS Project.” “Thunderbolts Thrive in the World” Superintendent Chris Bigger introduced the board to the new learning concept for the district, “Thunderbolts Thrive in the World”. This new strategy comes with curriculum and programs to help students be prepared to go into their post-secondary lives with a meaningful diploma. “’Thunderbolts Thrive in the World’ revolves around the idea that a diploma means more than ‘I sat in a classroom for seat time and got 23½ credits that may or may not do anything for me.’” said Bigger. The goal is that all students will be able to graduate with more than just a high school diploma. Every student will have a nationally recognized certificate in a career field, 9 post-secondary credits, and/or an apprenticeship program that ends with a job. A student could earn one or more of these upon graduation. “These are stackable ideas,” said Bigger, asking “how many can we get to them before they walk across the stage?” LASD provides options for students through partnership programs with Adams County Technical Institute, Carroll County Technical, and Harrisburg Area Community College. Dr. Timothy Mitzel, Assistant to the Superintendent, brought exciting news about a program that will help Thunderbolts Thrive in the World. “What I am very excited to share is that we have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) from Delaware Valley University,” said Mitzel. The MOU enables high school teachers to instruct students as adjunct faculty at Delaware Valley University (DVU) in Doylestown. The curriculum and teachers’ credentials will be reviewed by DVU departments to make sure they are aligned with their requirements. Under state regulations, the MOU is what makes it possible for concurrent coursework that will earn them high school and college credits at the same time. Mitzel announced that Bigger has signed the MOU and it will be presented at the Board’s regular meeting on Monday, March 21, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. for approval. The program would be provided beginning in Fall 2023. The next work session meeting of the LASD Board will be Monday, April 11, 2022, at 6:00 p.m. in the LASD Board Room. The public is encouraged to attend.
The Bermudian Springs school district will seek new bids for the old middle school project after the initial bids came in well over the project’s budget. The school board agreed to invite the new bids following a vote during the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday evening. The board declined to accept multiple bids related to work on the middle school. The bids ranged from $299,500 for plumbing to $2,790,000 for a general contractor. The board agreed to seek new bids “for demolition of the old middle school and construction of a new facility,” according to the board’s agenda. The decision had previously been discussed during Monday evening’s caucus meeting when school directors were told the bids significantly exceeded the budget set for the project. The base bids came in at a total of $4,372,500 compared to the district’s budget of $2,738,848, according to a representative for Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, the architects working on the project. During Monday’s meeting, the board was told some of the higher costs were a result of the pandemic. Demolition estimates were lower than anticipated while construction materials costs are currently higher than usual. On Monday, the board was told it may make more financial sense to demolish the entire building rather than renovate it. “We obviously were disappointed… Remember, the ultimate goal was to reuse the facility,” Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss said during the caucus meeting. “We were just trying to reuse what we had and some of the feedback was, ‘That’s good,’ right? But it actually amounted to more labor because of the amount of work that they had to do to be able to make everything fit that he just described.” During Monday’s meeting, Hotchkiss told the board that seeking new bids will provide more clarity regarding what is possible. “That just puts us in a position to get the information back and make the decision from there,” he said. On Tuesday, the board followed the suggestion, agreeing to dismiss the bids and pursue new ones. Achievements Jon Defoe, principal of the high school, said the school’s production of “Mamma Mia!” was a success. “And thanks to the tremendous support they got, we had three great crowds for each performance,” Defoe said. “And I know they were extremely excited and happy to be performing live and in person again.” Defoe also told the board that swimmer Kate Elliott did well during the District 3 competition last weekend and qualified to swim in the upcoming PIAA meet. Music Month The board acknowledged Music in Our Schools Month by watching a video of student musicians’ and staff members’ reflections on music. Hotchkiss presented the four and a half-minute video to the board. The video featured brief clips of members of the school band in fourth through sixth grades. The video stated that the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) celebrates March as the Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM) to promote music education. Several children provided brief statements for the video, stating their grade, the instrument they play and what they like about playing in the school band. The children’s reasons for playing ranged from having fun and appreciating music to enjoying the challenge of mastering new pieces. According to the video, the middle school has had “blasts from the past” this month to celebrate music education. Staff members have added displays to the hallways communicating their love of music. Those experiences were also shared in the video with written statements accompanied by photos, with staff detailing their time in the band, choir, musical theatre and musical experiences outside of school. “And again, thank you to Ms. Danielson for putting that together, and to our students and staff for sharing their experiences with music,” Hotchkiss said. “We do appreciate the music programs and the support K-12. I think we have an outstanding music program and it’s great to be able to highlight some of our kids, and soon I hope that we can get them in here to perform during one of our board meetings, so thanks again.” Other business The board approved the hiring of a varsity assistant softball coach and seven Girls on the Run coaches, among other personnel decisions. It also approved the 2022-23 operating budget for the Adams County Technical Institute. March 25 was previously scheduled to have an early dismissal, but the board agreed to change it to an asynchronous day. The decision applies to all grade levels. The board also unanimously agreed to a resolution calling for changes to charter school funding. No one spoke during the time for public comment and there was no scheduled speaker. The next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 12. Meetings are held in the high school auditorium and are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
Gettysburg College announced today that U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy will speak at its Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2022 on Saturday, May 14. The 11:00 a.m. ceremony will take place, rain or shine, on the College’s Beachem Portico on the north side of Pennsylvania Hall. “I’m honored and humbled to have been asked by Gettysburg College to serve as this year’s Commencement speaker,” Rep. Murphy said. “I look forward to celebrating the graduating students in the Class of 2022, in the presence of their proud families and faculty, as they complete one important chapter of their lives and begin an exciting new chapter.” Not only has Rep. Murphy served Florida’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017, but she is also a former educator, businesswoman, and national security specialist—focused on jobs, security, and opportunities for every American. The college looks forward to Rep. Murphy sharing her wealth of knowledge with the Class of 2022, as each graduate prepares to embark on their own meaningful journeys. “At Gettysburg College, we are committed to leading lives of consequence and building a better, more just world. Throughout her distinguished career, Rep. Murphy has embodied this very commitment,” Gettysburg College President Bob Iuliano said. “As the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, and the first woman of color to lead the Blue Dog Coalition, Rep. Murphy is a change-maker—and an inspiring example of what can be achieved when we work in service to others and the greater good. I have no doubt that our remarkable Class of 2022 will be moved by her story and graduate energized to Do Great Work in the world.”
Is it a drama? Is it a mystery? Is it a tragedy? No! It is the Littlestown High School Spring comedy musical, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” The 1962 Broadway musical by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, with music and lyrics by the late Stephen Sondheim will be presented by the cast this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium. As the curtain goes up, the audience observes a street in ancient Rome where all the action is focused on three houses. First, the house of Erroneous (Nick Albright) an old man who according to Albright just “…interrupts the show, awkwardly.” The second house is owned by Lycus (Keira Lee), purveyor of courtesans for the Roman gentleman caller. The third house is where Sennex (Derek Reed) and Domina (Makayla Rock) live with their son, Hero (Christian Keller). The story turns the hero and sidekick pairing on its head, featuring the sidekick as the main character. Taylor Hollie plays main character, Pseudolus, whose frenetic mind directs the cast of characters to her purpose while attempting to win her freedom. The sidekick’s sidekick is Hysterium (Trent Boritz), who finds himself unwillingly woven into Pseudolus’ plans. “Pseudolus is a Roman slave who wants his freedom,” says Hollie. Her character was originally written as a male character. Hollie is following in the footsteps of Whoopie Goldberg who took on the role in 1997. Says Hollie, “He’s a funny little guy.” Play goers will meet the lovely Philia (Chloe Sentz), the bride purchased by the pompous and full of himself Captain Miles Gloriosus (Chase Wootton). Unbeknownst to Miles Gloriosus, Hero and Philia are in love. Hero promises Pseudolus his freedom if Pseudolus can get Philia for him. A host of supporting characters help with the confusion and mayhem. The courtesans include Tintinnabula (Brooke Kelly), Vibrata (Florence Vandersluys), Geminae (Acadia Farley and Rylee Griffith), Panaceea (Duda Marton), Gymnasia (Katelyn Snare), and Auxiliara (Riko Kambayashi). Proteans and soldiers make up the balance of the cast. They are Kaelonnah Darlich, Kenzie Hull, Kaylie Kurland, and Brooklyn Pyren as Proteans. Garrett Hutchinson, Christopher Johnson, Ella Scott, and Dylan Smith are the Soldiers. Three members of the courtesans, Marton (Brazil), Kambayashi (Japan), and Vandersluys (France) are foreign exchange students. The three young actresses spending their senior year in Adams County expressed enthusiasm about their roles, saying theater was not an extra-curricular activity in their home schools. Directing the musical is Michael Baker along with vocal director Michael Lobaugh. Choreography is by Nikki Bull with music direction from Adam Bish. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.lasd.k12.pa.us/page/online-box-office . Featured Image: Cast members Florence Vandersluys, Taylor Hollie, and Riko Kambayashi. [Christine Grim]
The Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) hopes to upgrade the HVAC and roof systems at James Gettys Elementary and the Administration Building in the summer of 2023. But the construction will potentially be delayed by supply chain and other issues. The district will get two more estimates for the work including those that involve energy-saving construction. The district said the new proposals could potentially save money over the life of the systems, which is normally about 17 years. Director of Facilities and Safety Coordinator Josh Reynolds said getting the estimates to stay on the timeline would be “very tight to get the contractors on site by March 1,” and that getting equipment on site would likely be a major problem. “If we can’t have the equipment is doesn’t make sense to start the project. There are a lot of moving parts,” he said. In answer to a question from board member Michelle Smyers, Reynolds said ongoing reconstruction at the high school was on time and under budget. Reynolds said a portion of the gym and locker rooms would be reoccupied next week. Reynolds said there had been issues with faulty control valves that had led to uneven temperatures in school rooms during the construction. Charter School Resolution The district will consider joining over 400 other state schools in a resolution critical of state funding of charter schools. The full resolution can be seen here. The resolution says the payment system, which has not been updated since 1997, is unfair because it requires the district to pay more for charter schools than is needed to operate the programs. The resolution calls on the General Assembly to “meaningfully revise the existing flawed charter school funding systems for regular and special education to ensure that school districts and taxpayers are no longer overpaying these schools or reimbursing for costs the charter schools do not incur.” “This is not a resolution condemning charter schools,” said board president Ken Hassinger, “It’s more of a resolution looking at financing.” The district said people interested in learning more about charter school issues should reach out to board member Al Moyer. The resolution will be considered for action at the next board meeting. Learning Losses In her legislative report, board member AmyBeth Hodges noted concerns expressed at the state level about pandemic-related learning losses. Hodges said state legislators had determined K-12 learning loss was “clear” and “immense.” Hodges said state legislators called on teachers, administrators, parents and school leaders to work together to solve the problem. Hodges said recent data showed student scores had gone down in every subject except biology where there was a small increase. She said there was some uncertainty about the meaning of the scores but that legislators were hoping to address the gap through funding for training, summer programs, and mental health interventions. The legislators urged the use of Federal Covid funds to confront these issues. Smyers thanked the maintenance team for its work during the spring musical, noting the team even ran the soundboard for the show. The next regularly-scheduled board meeting will be March 21 at 7:00 p.m.
Upper Adams School District (UASD) approved the finalization of the agreement with Arendtsville Borough regarding the district’s intermediate school Tuesday. “At long last we have an agreement,” Board President Tom Wilson said, “The process for the agreements has been dragged out for a year.” In a special meeting, the board approved a settlement agreement between UASD and Arendtsville in regard to the additions and renovations project at the Upper Adams Intermediate School. UASD and Arendtsville entered into an Operations and Maintenance Agreement and Stormwater Best Management Practices in August 2019. Reconstruction was done to Upper Adams Intermediate School (formerly known as Arendtsville Elementary), including two new building additions to the existing school building, renovations to the existing school building, new entrances, and parking layouts, an extended drop off queue lane, and new stormwater management facilities basins. According to the settlement, disputes arose between UASD and Arendtsville regarding contentions of non-compliance with the plan, as well as among others, costs incurred by the Borough as a result of the project. As of the settlement agreement, payment will be made in the amount of $6,695.40, as well as 50 percent of the waterline relocation/replacement to Arendtsville, a payment of $9,119.38 to Arendtsville for engineering fees and costs for the services of Knoebel, Picarelli, Inc. (KPI), a payment not to exceed $3,250.00 for outstanding KPI invoices, and final inspection costs. The settlement agreement also detailed additional work to close out the project including installations and repairs if not already completed. Wilson was so adamant of the agreement concluding that if there were any problems with certain balances, “I’d be happy to write the check of my personal account,” he said. Once a signature is received from Arendtsville officials, the transfer of funds will be executed, Wilson said. “And this at long last should specify all of the things that need to be done to bring this thing to a conclusion,” Wilson said.
By Sherry Feeser, Youth Services Coordinator, Adams County Library System. The libraries of the Adams County Library System (ACLS) offer many opportunities for parents and caregivers to engage their children and teens in library activities. For the youngest children, a goal is to read, sing, talk, write, and play every day. Many libraries offer baby and toddler storytimes, preschool storytimes as well as Learn and Play storytimes. The goal of each of these storytimes is to get children excited about books. We do this by including songs and rhymes into our storytimes enhancing them with shaky eggs and scarves and parachute play. After each storytime session children have the opportunity to play and interact with games and toys while adults have time to share and interact together as well. Many play groups and friendships have formed in storytime rooms around the county. For elementary age children there are many great programs. Book groups for children of all ages promote a love for books and the courage to explore genres and topics they would not normally choose. Through these discussions children learn and make new friends. All libraries in ACLS now offer STEAM programs. Children’s love and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math are allowed to grow with these hands-on activities. Some of the topics we have covered in ACLS include Robotics, Forensics, Acrylic painting, electricity and circuits as well as building challenges. These programs enhance what children are learning in school and spark a love for learning and discovering. For Teens ACLS offers a variety of different opportunities. Several libraries offer book groups for teens, giving them a place to talk about the books they love and voice their opinions on the books that are chosen. Several libraries have Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). TAB groups meet monthly to discuss ways to make the library a better place for teens and discuss programming ideas for teens. By allowing teens to voice their opinions on what they think should be in the library and what programs should be held they feel ownership and a sense of belonging at the library. STEAM programs are offered for teens, enriching their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Several libraries in the county have designated spaces for teens. These spaces offer a place for teens to work on projects together or to just meet in a safe space. Many of these spaces have games and activities for teens to use while in the library. ACLS is not just a place to come for books and information. ACLS is a community space where people come together for a common purpose, which is to enjoy an activity. This activity could be a storytime, a book group, a gaming night, a craft night or STEAM event. By bringing individuals together in our community we are developing positive relationships and giving members of our community a sense of belonging. Isn’t that what we all really want? To have a place where we all feel welcome, a place we all feel like we belong. Let ACLS be that place for you. Please visit our website at www.adamslibrary.org and click on our events tab to see where you “fit in” at Adams County Library System.
Fairfield Area School District has increased its safety measures in an attempt to reduce transmission of the coronavirus as the district has experienced a significant increase in positive cases this year. During the school board’s meeting on Monday evening, Kristi Ebaugh, the district school nurse, said well over half of the district’s positive cases this school year have occurred in only one and a half months. There were 170 known cases during the first six weeks of the year compared to 101 cases in the 17 weeks from Aug. 26 through Dec. 24, 2021. Ebaugh said that in the first two weeks of February, there were 10 cases each week. Superintendent Thomas Haupt said he, members of the administration and Ebaugh all reviewed the district’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see where the district can improve. Haupt said a mask mandate is still in effect for public transportation, including school buses. The district tries to keep students distanced by at least three feet to reduce transmission of the virus. Haupt said the district bought Plexiglass for the elementary school last year but it wasn’t being used. It has now been installed in a classroom as well as the library. At one point, school buses were sanitized each day but the schedule had been reduced. Haupt said the sanitizing schedule has been increased to a daily once again. Among other safety measures, middle school students also clean their Chromebooks before they use them. “I think we have good practices in place,” Haupt said. “We certainly have layered practices in place, and I think are really in good alignment with what the CDC is recommending, even with their update as of Jan. 13.” The district is still working on hiring more custodians, according to William Mooney, the district’s building and grounds director. In January, Mooney told the board he hoped to have two custodians hired pending board approval this month. But on Monday, Mooney said one candidate turned down interviews and the other had not responded to a request for a second interview. Mooney said he has begun the process of interviewing two additional candidates and hopes to be able to seek board approval for them soon. Board member Richard Phillip asked if the district could hire students to help. Haupt said the district can consider the idea and seek legal counsel, though he noted that it is easier to make it work during the summer than during the school year. The board also accepted a handful of resignations, including those of Thomas Weaver, the district’s business manager, and Daniel Watkins, the special education supervisor. Weaver’s resignation will be take place on or by April 1 while Watkins will leave on June 30. “I just wanted to say on behalf of myself and, I hope, the rest of the district, thank you for your service with us and we appreciate everything you guys have done,” Phillip said. Weaver said his office is currently working on the district’s budget. He anticipates the business office will present a budget to the board sometime in April. The board also plans to review a course selection handbook when it is submitted for approval. Brian McDowell, principal of Fairfield Area High School, said the document should be ready for the next meeting. During the time for public comment, three individuals spoke. Two voiced dissatisfaction with the mask policy and the third said she felt people too easily fear COVID-19 when symptoms can occur for other reasons. She requested the board accept negative home COVID-19 test results for children to return to school. Members of the community who have not had a chance to meet the new superintendent will have the opportunity to soon. Haupt said he plans to hold a meet and greet from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23 at the Fairfield Fire Hall. “It’s really a way for me to start to meet members of the community, them to begin to meet me, and really, we also have several new members of our administrative team, so I’ve asked them to join in this,” Haupt said. Invitations for the event were designed by district students. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28 in the district board room. Meetings are also livestreamed on YouTube.
Conewago Valley School District will focus on improving its communication following the results of recent steering committee feedback for the district’s comprehensive plan, according to Superintendent Sharon Perry. Four goals were identified, but the top priority listed was communication. The committee was a “multiple stakeholder group,” according to Perry. “That definitely won the award for Conewago Valley School District, that we can and should improve our communication,” Perry said. “I look forward to working with different stakeholder groups to see what action steps might be to help us improve that.” Mental health, curriculum and instruction and professional learning, and the “use of human resources and staffing” were the next three priorities listed by the committee, according to Perry. The committee wanted to ensure the district is prepared for the growing number of students. “This is an opportunity for us to get better, so I do look forward to coming back with action steps and plans that our board and community can hold us accountable to,” Perry said. Perry also said the district is busily preparing for Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone exams. “Basically what we’re trying to focus on is identifying those areas that can help our students perform better on these exams as well as other exams moving forward,” Perry said. A representative for Conewago Valley Intermediate School informed the board that after experiencing “issues with cyber activity inside and outside of school,” the school contacted the Adams County Children’s Advocacy Center. Children in 4th through 6th grades were given a presentation. The cyber concerns and presentation material were not specified. Kiefer Bell was honored for being the high school’s Rotary Student of the Month in January. Ella Billman and Jake Bixler were nominated as the Gettysburg Times Winter Sports Athletes of the Week for Jan. 10, with Bixler winning the honor. Aden Strausbaugh was nominated for the same distinction for the week of Feb. 7. The board also honored three students – Alaina Myers, Beauen Garman and Camden Elmo – for placing first in the district-level SkillsUSA competition. Three students were noted for receiving college acceptances while another was listed for receiving a $10,000 scholarship to Lock Haven University. There was no public comment provided during the meeting. The next regular board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 14.
At the LASD Board work session meeting on February 7, 2022, teacher Cortney Golden presented a plan for an after-school program at the Maple Avenue Middle School. The program is called “The Kitchen Table” and will help build community with the students. Golden said there would be between 6 and 8 teachers available 3 days per week to help students work together with other students on homework and to ask questions. “It’s a safety net for students who may be struggling,” said Golden. The goal is to provide the type of “kitchen table” experience that many of the students’ parents and grandparents remember from their days in school. There will be snacks and some fun activities thrown in as well. The LASD Board unanimously approved the program which will be funded by Federal Covid-related ESSERS grant funds. More details on the program will be forthcoming on the LASD app and website. Superintendent Christopher Bigger reported on plans for the high school renovation, saying the guiding coalition of 25 people that helps with supporting the building project would be meeting again after school hours. “We spend hours analyzing where should 6th grade be in the design, should we be by department, by grade levels when you organize, and answering a lot of questions,” commented Bigger. “Also, all this week the architects are meeting with all of our teachers in the secondary schools to ask what they need in a building project based around their classrooms.” Feasibility studies and other information can be found on the LASD website. The board recognized the retirement of well-loved Roger Gouker. Mr. Gouker spent 30 years as a police officer before retiring to become a LASD crossing guard. He has been keeping LASD students safe on their way to and from school for the last 30 years. The January Students of the Month were presented to the Board by their teachers. Representing Alloway Creek Elementary School are 1st grader Sadie Seymore and from 4th grade, Aiden Gochenour. The middle school Student of the Month is Arya Harris, 7th grade. High school Students of the Month are seniors Bradin Peart and Victoria Phillips. Peart is a member of National Honor Society and Varsity Club. He plans to study business after high school graduation. Phillips plays field hockey and is also a member of National Honor Society. She will study illustration with a minor in creative writing after graduation. Discussion was held about the need for additional substitute teachers in the LASD buildings and whether these substitutes would need to be factored into the budget for future years when ESSERS funds were no longer available. Additional substitutes have been essential during the COVID pandemic. “All building substitutes, including these additional building substitutes are all year-to-year contracts,” said board member Carl Thompson. “So, it’s not something we have to build in as they are not guaranteed a position at the end of each year.” The Board approved the additional substitutes for all three LASD buildings. The board approved three policies from the Curriculum, Co-Curriculum and Policy Committee. Policies 109 Resource Materials, 113.4 Confidentiality of Special Education Student Information, and 203 Immunizations and Communicable Diseases were all approved unanimously. These draft policies can be accessed through the LASD website at https://lasd.k-12.pa.us. Also approved unanimously was the 2022-2023 Littlestown High School Course Selection Guide and an added course to the LHS math curriculum, Introduction to Statistics. The next meeting of the LASD board will be on March 21, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Room.
Although 270 students have now tested positive for Covid since the start of the year, Gettysburg College will stop regular testing for students on Monday. Saying that “positivity rates are on a steady decline and that the students who have tested positive this semester were predominately asymptomatic,” Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students Anne Ehrlich said in a campus email on Thursday the college would no longer routinely test students. Since classes began in January, every student has been tested once per week. Image from campus Covid dashboard. Erhlich said tests will still be available for fully vaccinated students who want one and that students who have an approved exemption or are not fully vaccinated will still be required to test once a week. The campus also loosened restrictions on masking. “Effective immediately, masking is no longer required in residence halls. Masking is still required in all other indoor locations. We will continue to evaluate our masking policy in the coming weeks,” said Ehrlich. The notice also said that any student who tests positive through an at-home test, local urgent care, or the hospital is required to notify the College of their positive test. Notification of a positive test enables the College to provide resources to ensure the health and safety of students and the community at large.
The Bermudian Springs school board discussed the process of reviewing and revising curricula at their Monday meeting after one board member raised concerns. The board unanimously approved the 2022-23 curriculum guide, but only after a discussion about the curricula. Board member Jennifer Goldhahn originally said she wanted to table the issue of approving the guide. Dr. Shannon Myers, the district’s assistant superintendent, said the approval of the guide would not determine what was in the courses themselves as the curricula for those courses had already been approved separately. Goldhahn requested that parents have more access to students’ assignments through Canvas. Myers cautioned that adding the assignments students would have ahead of time might cause difficulty, likening it to a student getting an early look at a test. She also said assignments can sometimes vary depending on the student. Myers said parents with questions about a course should be able to view the class syllabus and bring questions or concerns to the child’s teacher. Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss encouraged parents to use information already available to them. “… Ask your student to open up Canvas right next to you and show you what they’re looking at,” Hotchkiss said. “Everybody has that ability. Every student does. Everybody has an iPad. To me as a parent, this would be great. Sit down with the kids and say, ‘Show me what’s happening here.’ Everybody has that ability. I know kids may hesitate.” Hotchkiss noted the district had only begun using a learning management system in the past three years and that while a significant amount of progress has been achieved, further professional development will help the district learn more about utilizing Canvas. Goldhahn said she would vote to approve the curriculum guide if the district would work on improving transparency regarding its curricula. There are multiple avenues for parents to learn more about their children’s classes, according to Hotchkiss and Myers. If a course worries a parent, they can seek more information. “That’s when you can reach out to your guidance counselor,” Hotchkiss said. “You can start having those conversations about courses. If you want to get more, then you go through those processes.” Goldhahn asked what the board can do to change curricula parents might find problematic. There isn’t a quick or easy solution. “It is impossible for a school district of our size to just revamp all curriculum and sit down and say we’re going to look at every single area,” Myers said. “We have to prioritize. I can’t say that we’re going to do ELA, math, science and social studies all in one year. It might be that next year, we decide to really focus on ELA and that is the content area that we’re going to audit. We’re going to cycle through and determine what the needs are, what adjustments need made, and then we’ll cycle through to math. And then we get on a continuous cycle, which is just not something we’ve had with the disruptions the last couple of years.” If there are several people voicing the concerns about the same topic, that area might be pushed forward more quickly for discussion, according to Myers. Myers and Goldhahn did appear to agree that parents can have access to syllabi and reading lists to give them a better idea of the course content their student is learning. During the time for public comment, three individuals voiced concerns about the district’s curriculum and books, echoing worries Goldhahn had expressed during the board’s caucus meeting on Monday evening. One person said he learned existentialism will be taught at the high school and acknowledged it as necessary while saying the board needed to make sure the curriculum was appropriate and the topic handled well. Two others voiced concerns about material in the school library, saying books they find to be inappropriate should be kept out of the district. There will be an open house at the new middle school from 2-4 p.m. Sunday. The board approved a school calendar appointing Aug. 18 as the first student day of the 2022-23 school year. The last student day will be May 25, 2023. The board also approved the birth of an Instagram account for the Berm Brew Coffee House. As of Wednesday night, no posts had yet been made, but the account was live and had 49 followers. Supporters can follow @bermbrewcoffeehouse on Instagram. The board’s next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 8 in the high school auditorium. It will also be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
My name is Jessica Laganosky, and I am the branch director at the Jean Barnett Trone Memorial Library of East Berlin. The Trone Memorial Library has served the East Berlin community for over forty-five years. In 2016, the library building expanded in size to provide more community space for browsing of library materials; space for study; and more programming space. The warm and welcoming atmosphere is thanks to the wonderful team at the library – Anne, Carrie, Maddie, Molly, Sally, and Sherry. If you have not had an opportunity to visit us in person, please do! There are so many positives when working in a small community such as East Berlin, but building relationships with the community and getting to know community members are two of the biggest positives. The Trone Memorial Library team cultivates these relationships, offering book recommendations based on a patron’s known interests; watching families grow and “graduate” from the children’s area to the young adult area; and working with experts in the community on a variety of topics to let their expertise shine in programming and displays. We’d love to see you at the library, joining us for a storytime, or a book discussion, or a craft night, or for one of our young adult event nights. Or, stop by just to say hi! It is a testament to the library team that community members from across the county keep coming back to the library. As of 2021, the Trone Memorial Library has a Friends group and a Friends-operated bookstore! Currently, the bookstore is open Mondays and Saturdays, 10am-2pm, and carries a variety of books, DVDs, music CDs, audiobooks, and more. Be sure to check it out soon and to learn more about the Friends of the Trone Memorial Library. A little bit about myself: Though I became the branch director at Trone Memorial Library in 2021, I have worked for the Adams County Library System for sixteen years. During that time, I held the position of branch manager at the Littlestown Library (in the original location on East King Street!); the branch manager at the Harbaugh~Thomas Library in Biglerville; and the Public Services Librarian at the Gettysburg Library. I am blessed during my time with the Adams County Library System to meet such amazing people at each location I called “home” for a period of time. I oversee the daily operations of the Trone Memorial Library and work closely with the Friends of the Trone Memorial Library. I also work with the library team to purchase books and develop programming. My responsibilities also include managing the checkout system for the Adams County Library System – if something goes wrong, I connect with the company to troubleshoot and get things working again as quickly as possible. I also coordinate adult programming for the Adams County Library System, including serving as chair of the Adams County Reads One Book Committee. Each October, the library system hosts the Adams County Reads One Book program, which offers opportunities for all community members to read and to connect through one book title. This year’s book will be announced in June, so stay tuned! When not at the library, you’ll probably find me reading (I’ll read just about any type of book) or binge watching a crime drama (I’m currently watching Vera). Submitted by Jessica Laganosky, Branch Director, Jean Barnett Trone Memorial Library of East Berlin
Two proposals to loosen or abolish mask requirements failed during the Fairfield Area school board meeting on Monday night. School board member Candace Ferguson-Miller made a motion to allow children with mask exemptions to continue to attend school without a mask after an in-school exposure to coronavirus. According to Kristi Ebaugh, the district school nurse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Pennsylvania Department of Health recommend that students exposed to COVID-19 quarantine at home for five days, followed by wearing a mask to school for five days. Fairfield’s health and safety plan already goes against those guidelines. The district instead allows students to meet the quarantine requirement by masking at school for 10 days after an in-school exposure, regardless of whether they have a mask exemption. It is not an option for a student exposed to a family member with COVID-19. Ebaugh said students can test, but the results are only valid for 48 hours. Then, students exposed to the virus will need to take another test. “I think we need to think about all the students in the classroom and about the level of spread we’re at right now,” Ebaugh said. Board member Ryan Phillip seconded Ferguson-Miller’s motion, which failed 7-2. Phillip then made a motion to lift any mask requirements at all, arguing that if the Pennsylvania Department of Health cannot mandate masks, the district also has no power to require them. That motion was seconded by Ferguson-Miller and failed 6-3. Board Treasurer Lashay Kalathas supplied the third vote. Ebaugh said the district is close to having enough cases for the state Department of Health to recommend closing schools. From Jan. 18 through Monday, there were 23 cases of COVID-19 in the elementary school, 17 in the middle school and 13 in the high school, she said. “Our numbers have skyrocketed,” Ebaugh said. “It’s pretty bad.” Phillip asked Superintendent Thomas Haupt whether he would close the school if the state Department of Health told him to. Haupt said he would follow the guidance of medical experts from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health. “You’re not going to change the trajectory of the virus,” Phillip said, adding that all the district can do is have janitors clean the schools and provide a clean space for the children. “It’s so much more than that,” Board President Jennifer Holz said. “It really is. It’s about layering the mitigation efforts. It’s not about one thing… it’s multiple methods of mitigating this virus.” Holz and Kalathas looked at lower rates of positive COVID-19 tests in other districts and said Fairfield should do more to attempt to prevent transmission. After the failed votes to remove mask requirements, Holz asked the administrative staff to look into more options. “The directive to Mr. Haupt and his team is that we will explore every mitigation effort possible for this district,” Holz said. “That if we are to make changes to our health and safety plan, we are taking into consideration every possible thing that we can do within the building to keep the kids safe.” The meeting marked Haupt’s fourth day as superintendent in the district. The board agreed to have Dr. Larry Redding, the board’s former interim superintendent, serve as a consultant. Redding’s contract will extend through February at the rate of $450 per day. Redding will work about two days per week, though he may sometimes need to work three days, according to Haupt. During the time for public comment, half a dozen community members spoke against mask mandates or questioned quarantine protocol. One individual who identified herself as a nurse in a cancer center and an ER volunteer spoke in favor of masks. Despite the bleak update on the district’s COVID-19 cases, Thomas Weaver, the district’s business manager, provided a positive update. Crystal Heller, the district’s food service supervisor, has done an “excellent job” ensuring the district has a supply of food and other materials, according to Weaver. School supply shortages have made national headlines due to global supply chain issues. “Early on a number of months ago, we felt that was going to be a big problem,” Weaver said. “She’s been able to reach out and work with different vendors, and she’s done an excellent job. We actually have not run into any problems in the last few weeks with product or food product, and she’s been able to basically continue with all of the menus that she has prepared… Many of you know that dealing with a supply chain, that’s not an easy thing today.” The board will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14 in the district board room. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
As part of our mission to introduce the Adams County Library System to the Gettysburg Connection readers, several staff members—including me—were asked to introduce ourselves and write about our job duties. Hi, I’m Jeff, I’m the Finance Director at the library (aka the accountant). Right now, half of the readers’ eyes glaze over as they move on to the next article. That’s OK, I’m not sure I’d be too excited to learn how an accountant spends his day at work either. But it’s an important position, crucial to the continued operation of the library, and it’s worth considering the types of financial issues Adams County nonprofits face. It would be easy to create a laundry-list of duties, I could cut and paste my job description, but then readers would truly would fall asleep. Plus, the list includes all the things you would probably come up with on your own if you gave it a couple of minutes of thought: Budgeting, banking funds, paying bills, and monthly reports to the Board of Trustees. On the org chart, I’m a shop of one, but I get invaluable support from Vicki Frist, one of our administrative assistants. The rest of my ‘financial team’ is the organization’s Finance Committee. This includes library senior management and the officers of the Board. I bring all major financial decisions—with backup data—to this group at our once-a-month committee meeting, or via email if a decision is time-sensitive. We discuss and deliberate, and ultimately decide on what we believe is the correct course of action for the organization. Most significant financial decisions go to the Board of Trustees for a vote. The stereotypical image of a local nonprofit is a cash-strapped organization scraping beneath the car seats looking for enough change to keep the operation afloat. For some nonprofits, things are truly that bad, but for many, the library system included, careful planning and thrifty operations are what’s needed to thrive. This highlights one of my important but unscheduled duties—analysis. Because I’ve been managing finances for small-to-midsized businesses for over twenty years, a filter runs in my brain 24/7. I constantly visit Excel to run spreadsheets to verify or debunk common financial assumptions. This ongoing attention helps us continually nibble away at waste. This includes contracting utility providers, sourcing the best-value health insurance plans, and finding the best auditor or janitorial service for the best price. Another key aspect of my job is managing our investments—not deciding which securities we purchase, third party brokers do that, but that we use the proceeds correctly. The library system has fourteen different investment accounts, each with a specific purpose. Some provide targeted income to help the company operate, and some fund specific purchases. The most interesting of these is our named endowment fund. That one investment vehicle includes 227 separate named endowments, each with directions specified by the donor on how the income should be used. Many of these funds purchase library materials (e.g. DVDs, or children’s books, or legal thrillers, or dozens of other specific topics), and some of our endowments fund scholarships or author visits, or building expenses or technology. Think of that, hundreds of donors have formed lasting legacy funds to help the library operate. Another key duty is serving as the treasurer for the Friends of Adams County Library. This is a wholly separate nonprofit with the mission to raise funds for the library. For the Friends, I also track income and expenses, prepare budgets and help out at fundraisers and our annual book sale held every July. I don’t fool myself. I know my job doesn’t come across as interesting as the guy in the next office. He gets to decide which books and programs the library will provide for you. But it makes me happy that I can support such a great cause while earning my livelihood.
After an extended period meeting in the middle school auditorium, the Gettysburg Area School Board moved back to its boardroom in the District Administration Building on Biglerville Rd. Superintendent Jason Perrin gave each board member a certificate and thanked them for the work they do. The board voted on a revised Health and Safety plan and approved a research project for Caitlyn McBride, Family and Consumer Science Teacher at the Gettysburg Area Middle School. The board also discussed upcoming facility projects, the capital improvement program, and approved several motions. There were no public comments. The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be on Monday Feb. 7.
School district policy was the topic of discussion at Monday’s Littlestown Area School District (LASD) board meeting. The board discussed the approval for the first reading of Policy 109 which focuses on the procedure the board will apply to reviewing educational materials used in the classrooms and libraries of each building when there is a complaint made about a particular material. The Curriculum, Co-curriculum, and Policy Committee presented a ten-step process that will assist them in reviewing materials used in LASD classrooms or placed in the libraries, and then be able to present a recommendation to the Board for approval. “Are we applying these books to Pennsylvania Law to see if we are violating the law?” asked Board member, Nicki Kenny. LASD Solicitor, Dan Altland explained, “There is a white line test as to what obscenity is. It is what the average person applying contemporary community standards would find a work, taken as a whole, appeals to the period interests, and whether the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law. And finally, whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” He continued, “That is the test for obscenity under the United States Supreme Court and would also be applicable in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” The policy also provides that the committee could request the assistance of library associations and solicitor involvement. “I have worked with (Assistant to the Superintendent) Dr. Timothy Mitzel and the committee in trying to develop the policy as you have it,” said Altland. The first reading of Policy 109 was approved by the Board 8 to 1, with Kenny as the sole “no” vote. Superintendent Christopher Bigger presented information regarding the Health and Safety Plan for the LASD buildings. “I want to thank all the people who have been stepping in when there has been a need,” said Bigger. The school district has seen a total of 180 students and 37 staff absent for COVID from September, 2021 to January 17, 2022. Students have maintained a 90% attendance rate, and less than 1% of close contacts to a person with COVID in schools end with a positive result. LASD’s main goal from the beginning of the pandemic was to keep students in the school buildings. The Health and Safety Plan mitigation measures going forward are: Stay home when sick. Masking optional (5-20% wearing a mask depending on the building) Fog classrooms and buses weekly at a minimum. Notify close contacts if exposed in school, with no minimum quarantine. In the home close contacts for a student or employee will be quarantined for 10 days if not vaccinated or did not have COVID in the last 90 days. Positive individuals required to quarantine for 10 days. Mr. Bigger also noted that policy numbers 4 and 5 above exceed the current recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health. The next meeting of the LASD Board will be on February 14, 2022 in the board room at 7:00 PM. The public is encouraged to attend.
In recognition of School Director Recognition Month, Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss gave the board members certificates from the district and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. He encouraged community members to show their appreciation to the board. “A quality public education is a key that can open doors of opportunities for many students,” Hotchkiss said, saying board members as well as parents, faculty and staff are all critical to students’ success. Hotchkiss said board members take on “challenging” work when they agree to serve the district. “School directors volunteer numerous hours monthly, which includes adopting policy, voting on budgets, approving curriculum changes and reviewing hiring decisions, to name a few,” Hotchkiss said. “They take time to learn about the issues affecting public education and to seek innovative solutions.” Board President Michael Wool echoed his thoughts. “I, too, want to thank each and every one of you for the time that you’ve given up for not just our schools, our kids and our community, but for everyone that’s involved here at Bermudian,” Wool said. Hotchkiss also voiced his appreciation for those who have helped the district move into the new middle school building. He acknowledged that the move came during a challenging time. “As we’re navigating to move into a new school, our administrative team has really continued to hold down the fort on a daily basis and navigate the challenges of Covid, from contact tracing to communicating with families and talking with kids and investigating,” Hotchkiss said. “And trying to work through substitutes that has been challenging, certainly now – substitutes from classrooms to buses… it’s been a lot on our administrative team.” Hotchkiss said the combination of issues and move has set a “grueling pace” in recent months. The board voted to donate $950 to the Bermudian Springs Sports Club. The money was originally designated to be paid to a concession stand manager but since the position has remained empty, the salary has remained unused, according to the board agenda. There were no scheduled delegations or speakers during the time for public comment. The board will meet for a class on school law on Feb. 16. The next regular board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8 in the district board room. Meetings are also streamed live through the district’s YouTube channel.
Conewago Valley residents will have the opportunity to meet with the district superintendent during coffee talks scheduled through May. During the school board’s meeting on Monday evening, Superintendent Sharon Perry announced the dates of coffee talks she will hold to engage with the community. The events will be held in the district board room. The talks are scheduled for 9 – 10:30 a.m. Feb. 8, March 10, April 27 and May 16. Perry said additional dates with evening availability will be scheduled in the future. “Come one, come all,” Perry said. “It’s an opportunity for me to meet members of the community and for them to introduce themselves to me, ask any questions, (and) provide any feedback as we move forward with our comprehensive planning process.” Perry also recognized each of the board members for their service. Those present received a certificate and she noted she would get certificates to the board members participating via Zoom. “Thank you, board, for all the time and energy you commit to our school district and to our faculty, staff and students,” Perry said. Board President Edward Groft said each board member serves for a “good reason.” “We’re all here for the kids,” Groft said. “If we can keep that going and keep the school going the rest of the year, we’ll be happy.” Perry told the board that it would need to complete a review of the district’s health and safety plan soon, as it is required to do every six months. After the board reviews it and makes any updates to it, the plan will be sent back to the state. The superintendent also updated the board on the English language arts curriculum review being completed by a team. “We’ve been now meeting as a collective group for several months, and the work that’s being provided and the thoughtfulness is only going to benefit our students as well as each and every principal and curriculum leader and teacher who’s participating in this research year, as it’s pulling us together and moving us forward with a vertically-articulated curriculum for approval coming up in May,” Perry said. No one addressed the board during the time for public comment. Perry read one submission from an individual reminding the board that face coverings are still supposed to be used on buses. Another said changes to the district’s face covering policy should be posted on the district homepage, not solely communicated via email. Two other submissions were technology questions, according to Perry. The board held an executive session to discuss personnel before holding the open meeting. The board’s next regular meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14 in the district office. Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist.
It is my privilege to serve as the current president of the Adams County Library System Board of Trustees. Like many residents of Adams County, I got my first library card as a small child and have enjoyed the library’s materials, programs, and services my whole life. Where else can you borrow the current best seller, read popular magazines, watch DVDs of first-run movies and current TV shows, plus enjoy educational and informational programs all for the amazing cost of ZERO? The Adams County Library System was incorporated in 1945 in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an independent library serving the residents of Adams County. It operates a main library in Gettysburg with branches in East Berlin, New Oxford, Biglerville, Carroll Valley, and Littlestown. The library is funded primarily through local and state government support, and contributions from individual and corporate donors, as well as investment income. We also gratefully receive support from our friends of the library groups in East Berlin, Gettysburg, Littlestown, and New Oxford, as well as the Harbaugh~Thomas Foundation. Without this public support, the library’s ability to carry out its programs and services would be significantly reduced. The library is managed by an administrative team, headed by the Executive Director, with oversight from the Board of Trustees. Our Executive Director, Laura Goss, brings almost twenty years of experience and dedication to the library, and the board thoroughly enjoys working with her as we strive to fulfill the mission and vision of the Adams County Library System: opening gateways for exploration and connecting people to opportunities that enrich their lives. Perhaps you would like to join the Library Board of Trustees? The board is composed of nine trustees, appointed by the Adams County Commissioners. Board membership begins with applying to be an associate trustee. Associate trustees serve a renewable term of one year, as a type of non-voting apprenticeship. Trustees are generally elected from the associate trustee pool and can serve for up to two consecutive three-year terms. If you are interested in serving as a board member, please visit the library’s website at www.adamslibrary.org for more information. The Board of Trustees page provides details on the roles and responsibilities of board members, as well as means to contact us about applying to be an associate trustee. The board meeting schedule is posted on the library’s website. Board meetings are generally held on the fourth Thursday of each month. The meetings are public, and all are welcome to attend. The website also provides information about the friends of the library groups and other volunteer opportunities. The Board of Trustees and library staff are very proud that Adams County Library System was able to continue to provide uninterrupted services to our community during the COVID epidemic, except for the mandated shutdown period in 2020—one of few libraries here in Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland to do so. In the coming weeks and months, a lot is happening at the library. Take a peek at the events calendar on the website. There’s something educational, fun, and informative going on at a library branch near you or online almost every day. You can stay on top of coming events, by signing up for the monthly e-newsletter. Just use the Staying in Touch link on the library website. As a wise person once said, “Knowledge is free at the library. Just bring your own container.” Dorothy Puhl is president of the ACLS Board of Trustees
The Upper Adams School District (UASD) school board heard presentations about district courses and health concerns at its curriculum and extra curriculum committee Tuesday. “As students move through UASD development from Kindergarten to 12th grade, the district wide goal is to prepare students to responsibly engage the world and understand the world they live in,” said Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Joseph Albin. “We always seek to empower each student to really be a responsible and productive individual.” Social Studies Curricula Albin share information about the district’s social studies curriculum, saying the approach was to present a balanced perspective, where students are encouraged to develop their own political thoughts and respect multiple viewpoints. Albin said the social studies curriculum is based on Pennsylvania State Standards, including topics of history, geography, economics, and civic and government. Albin said Critical Race Theory was a broad and complex topic that was not part of the social studies curriculum. Rather, the curriculum aims to acknowledge the importance of what has happened in the past while maintaining a student’s positive self-esteem. “We do not teach in a way that is designed or intended to make any student feel ashamed or negatively about themselves,” Albin said. “We strive to provide that challenging and inspiring educational series of opportunities that we believe the board expects of us and our community expects of us.” Spanish Language Curriculum According to a presentation by AP Spanish Teacher Gina Pecher, UASD is proud to offer multiple levels of Spanish curriculum, based on an understanding of community’s diverse levels of Spanish and English fluency, within the language department of the district, Pecher said UASD’s Heritage 1 and Heritage 2 level Spanish classes provide more than just basic challenges for native and heritage speaking students to improve their fluency. The Heritage classes are specially designed for students who speak Spanish at home to improve literacy and cultural skills in Spanish, she said. The courses help establish confidence and improve both Spanish and English comprehension as well as prepare students for AP Spanish. More than just learning a native language, the Heritage Spanish class is “also about teaching them to think critically,” she said. Now in her third-year teaching AP Spanish, Pecher has been blown away by the growth of her students. “I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to have heritage speakers have a class that speaks to them, that is molded and shaped for them specifically,” she said. COVID-19 and Health Concerns In other business, as COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head, Superintendent Wesley Doll presented health and safety information. As of the end of December, school district COVID-19 cases are 33 positive cases and 38 quarantines for both adults and students. Doll said the uptick in cases and transmission rate was possibly due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Returning back to school after the holiday, officials are continuing to monitor 15 positive cases and 27 quarantines. District wide, between approximately 25-28 percent of students continue to wear optional masks, he said. On the basis of his bi-weekly meetings with district nurses, Doll noted that all types of winter sicknesses are in bloom including the flu, the common cold, and respiratory illnesses. In an effort to keep everyone in the school district as safe as possible, Doll once again reiterated the crucial need to stay home when under the weather. As a parent, Doll acknowledged the challenges of keeping sick children home, but pleaded that “keeping sick children at home is very, very helpful for us continuing to keep education going in-person here within our district.” The school board will next meet January 18.
By Victor Skinner, The Center Square House Bill 412, sponsored by Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland, is designed to help alleviate the statewide shortage of substitute teachers by giving schools flexibility to fill positions with retired, inactive or student teachers. “The declining number of teacher certificates issued in Pennsylvania, plus the strain of bringing back students who have been out of physical classrooms for 18 months, has exacerbated the substitute crisis throughout the state,” Gleim said. “Schools have not been able to find enough substitutes to cover a day of classes for some time now and it continues to get worse.” Gleim’s legislation, backed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and signed Friday by Wolf, expands the ability of teachers with a state-issued, day-to-day substitute permit to serve in more than one assignment for up to 20 days, or longer under certain circumstances. They were restricted previously to one assignment. The bill also allows those with inactive teacher certifications to be employed as a substitute for up to 180 days per school year, rather than the previous 90-day limit. Retired teachers, eligible college students and recent graduates also now eligible to fill teacher vacancies on an emergency or short-term basis. Individuals over 25 years old with at least 60 college credits or three years of experience as a paraprofessional with classroom management training also can serve as “classroom monitors” to deliver preplanned assignments. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned how critical in-classroom education is for our K-12 students,” Wolf said. “I am proud to sign this legislation which allows schools the short-term flexibility to ensure children can safely learn in-person where we know is best for them and their futures. I look forward to continuing to work with members of the General Assembly to address these key issues longer term.” The new rules are limited to the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. PSEA President Rich Askey told Berks Community TV the changes will go a long way to help the union’s stressed out members and commended lawmakers from both parties for working together to help. “For months, PSEA members have been stressed to the breaking point because of the shortage of substitute teachers,” Askey said. “Without enough substitutes, some students are missing lessons, learning in packed classrooms, or even gathering in cafeterias. PSEA members’ top priority is ensuring that all students receive the best possible education. This bill will help students, educators, and support professionals do that essential work. “PSEA is proud to have worked with lawmakers in both parties who clearly understand that the substitute teacher shortage is a crisis state government can help solve,” he said. “Working together, we all collaborated on a strong bill that will begin to address this crisis.” Askey said broadening the pool of eligible substitutes is one critical component to fixing the problem, but increasing pay for substitute teachers is another. “PSEA urges school districts across Pennsylvania to apply for American Rescue Plan funds that can be used to increase daily pay for substitutes,” Askey said. “By expanding the pool of substitutes and paying them what they deserve for a hard day’s work, we can address this crisis before it takes any further toll on student learning and the already heavy workload of our educators and support professionals.”
Saying plans were very much open to change, Superintendent Chris Bigger updated the school board on Monday Dec. 13 on the proposed building project for renovations to the high school which would combine it with the middle school. “Where are we headed? It’s still to be determined,” he said. Bigger said bids for the project would probably begin in about a year and that the construction would take 2 years. Bigger said the estimated cost would be between $43 and $49 million and that a decision would also need to be made on what to do with the Maple Ave. Middle School building which would be vacated. “We need to design the buildings first to see what it would cost and what it would look like,” said Bigger. Bigger said the district had been planning since 2015 for the needed construction and had made substantial savings by consolidating buildings to reduce staff. Bigger said the consolidations had made the construction process possible. “We currently have a healthy budget. If we hadn’t consolidated those two schools we wouldn’t even be in a position to consider a building project.” Bigger noted that over the past years staff expenses had been declining to match a declining student enrollment. He said district expenses are normally under revenue by $800k to $1 million annually which has led to a fund balance of almost $8 million. Bigger said the thought an additional $400,000 in savings on personnel was possible going forward. Bigger said the board had been given “financial accolades” by its financial planning organization on multiple occasions for “thinking ahead.” Bigger said in a prior meeting he had shared several different likely possibilities for spending and taxation, including a worst and best case scenario. The worst cases, he said, would require a 3 percent tax increase per year for 4 years, but that scenario was only one possible outcome and that the final tax rates would be determined on basis of “a whole bunch of factors.” Bigger said the school had been working with staff and community members on making decisions about how to go forward. “The last 18 months has been intense. We hope for big dreams and a beautiful building but at the same time we know we have limited resources. We have an entire year before we go out to bid. This is just the starting point.” Bigger said LASD was in the middle on most financial statistics in comparison to the other districts in Adams County. “We certainly haven’t borrowed a lot. That’s both good and bad,” he said. “It’s my job to put options in front of you,” said Bigger. Health and Safety Plan Approved The board approved a revision to the district’s Health and Safety plan which moves to a mask optional policy for everyone, and which has been in effect for the past week. The full text of the plan is here. The planned passed on an 8 to 1 vote with Brian Lawyer voting no. The plan also includes relaxed guidelines for quarantining, allowing children who have been exposed to Covid but who have no symptoms to return to school. Bigger said about ½ of the students had been wearing masks before the revision went into effect, and that number had stayed about the same after the change. Bigger noted that fewer adults were now wearing masks.
One day before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the statewide mask mandate imposed by Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary, the Bermudian Springs School Board approved a mask exemption form. According to Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss, the form will remain on file for students even with the current mandate no longer in effect. The board approved the form with an 8-1 vote during a building and grounds meeting on Thursday evening. Board Vice President Matthew Nelson had the sole opposing vote due to concerns about liability. “A lot of other school districts clearly have gone down this path, and I have no idea what’s going to happen with them,” Nelson said. “Maybe nothing will happen with them, but that’s a gamble with public money. It’s not our money. So they’re going to take a chance that could jeopardize everything we do at Bermudian by taking that chance. So it seems to me that instead of marginalizing all of the hard work that everybody at our district has put in, we’re close to the end.” Board member Jennifer Goldhahn said she was concerned parents could file a class action lawsuit against the district or that parents would pull students from the district. Board member Travis Mathna agreed that parents might sue, adding that he was a parent who had withdrawn his student due to the mask mandate. Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss stressed that the form was for an “exception,” not an “exemption.” The form asked parents to agree to several statements: I confirm that wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability. I confirm that my child has exhausted all other alternatives to a face covering, including the use of a face shield. I confirm that my child and I understand there may be an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. I understand that the district may ask for additional documentation to confirm my child’s exemption. I understand this request may trigger a child-find obligation and would require the district to complete a team evaluation under Section 504. If this is determined, I will be provided with information about the process and a copy of my parental rights. If my child has an IEP or 504 plan, this request may require the IEP team or Section 504 team to reconvene to make appropriate revisions. Hotchkiss said gaining access to an exemption would be simple. “Here’s what I want everybody to walk away with an understanding: you have to check the boxes that you confirm that you’ve read (and) that you agree with the statements,” Hotchkiss said. “That’s it: name, check, sign, date, and turn into your child’s office.” Hotchkiss said he modified it based on what other nearby districts used and also ran the form by the district solicitor before presenting it to the board. Some other districts make parents or guardians agree that their child will quarantine if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 while not wearing a mask. Hotchkiss said the form the board approved means that Bermudian Springs will not. “Here you have a choice to quarantine, and these places that have that exception, that’s not a choice,” Hotchkiss said. “That’s part of what their agreement is.” Hotchkiss said parents or guardians could print and return the form to the office immediately. The form only covers children, not adults, according to Hotchkiss. He said nearby districts also only have forms designed for students. With the statewide mask mandate being thrown out, the district reverted to its health and safety plan, which has a mask-optional policy. The students’ forms could potentially be applied in the future. “But (the exemption forms will) still be on file, similar to the 504s,” Hotchkiss said. The board went into an executive session before adjourning.
The Fairfield Area School Board voted on Monday evening to make masks mandatory during times of ‘high’ or ‘very high’ COVID-19 transmission, even after the state mandate is discontinued. The board also welcomed its new members and held its annual reorganization meeting. Jack Liller, Kelly Christiano, Matthew DeGennaro, Candace Ferguson-Miller, Richard Phillip and Theodore Sayres Jr. were sworn in. Members Jennifer Holz, Lashay Kalathas and Lauren Clark have terms that do not expire until 2023. Holz was made president following a 7-2 vote and Liller secured the vice president’s seat with a vote of 6-3. Both Holz and Liller will hold one-year terms. Phillip was appointed as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association legislative chairperson. The board voted to change its health and safety plan following recommendations by administrators in order to help reduce the number of ill and quarantined children missing school in Fairfield following exposures. District Nurse Kristi Ebaugh said Fairfield currently does not follow CDC recommendations regarding quarantining. It also does not follow guidance about social distancing due to a lack of space. Ebaugh said making masks mandatory during times of higher rates of transmission would help keep children in the classroom. “In last two weeks alone, we had to quarantine 37 students,” Ebaugh said. “It’s been because of one of the students not wearing a mask or time at lunch or sports. If there were no masks at all, we would have had to quarantine 206 students. That’s 206 students K-12 who would not be in school.” Prior to the mask mandate, a higher percentage of Fairfield children tested positive for COVID-19 than they do now during the mandate, according to Ebaugh. She said that in her children’s classrooms, only about three children continued to wear a mask when they were optional. “That, to me, speaks about what the parents want,” Ferguson-Miller said. The new plan keeps masks required but provides more flexibility on quarantining procedures. Mask exemptions will still be allowed if the parent, school nurse and school administrator sign the paper for it. Interim Superintendent Larry Redding said a conversation informing parents about the risks will happen before anything was signed. “Our intent is encouraging the continued use of masks because it has this documentation in Fairfield that says the cases of infection are lower when more students are wearing masks,” Redding said. “So having the conversation, ‘Is this what you want for your child, to be exposed to a higher level of infection, and do you recognize the risks by signing that you are taking on that additional parental responsibility?’ And if you say, ‘Yes, I recognize that,’ there’s no objection from the administrator. But it’s not just ‘mail us in a for.’ You need to recognize your son is at a higher risk if he doesn’t wear a mask.” Phillip said exposure can happen outside school. Ebaugh pointed out that there are no other environments were large groups of children are kept in close contact for several hours a day, increasing their risk of infection. “That’s why these recommendations are here,” Redding said. “We know we are putting kids at risk by being close, by being there for 90 minutes or seven and a half hours or whatever, and we have an obligation to do what we can to provide the best, safest environment that’s going to translate back to kids staying in the classroom. That’s really the context that we need to look at this. We can’t spread them out.” Some board members wanted to make masks optional regardless of the transmission level. Ebaugh said that based on data from the last time masks were optional, the number of quarantined students would spike. Along with keeping children out of school, it would mean far more work for staff, she said. Because of masks, she only had to quarantine 37 students instead of 206 in the past two weeks. “As it stands with the 15 positives that we had on Friday and Saturday, I worked for about 13 hours over the weekend,” Ebaugh said. “I worked until 10 on Friday night, 6 p.m. on Thursday night. There’s no way I could call 206 students.” Some board members questioned why the mandate should continue on a local basis rather than allowing parents the option to decide if their child should wear a mask. “We had none of those numbers and we sent kids to school without masks or with the option, and now we know what that does,” Holz said. “Something about this has to change based on those numbers.” Liller said when the optional masking policy was approved before the mandate was in effect, the number of cases were trending downward in the summer. The rate of spread is now higher. Ebaugh asked the board to use the district’s data when making its decision. “I think the state allowed boards to make the decision and we saw how that went in September and they did the mask mandate,” Ebaugh said. “Now they’re trying to give it back to us. We have all this data. I think we should make an educational decision based on all of the data that we have, which has definitely changed since the beginning of August.” The new quarantine policy is significantly relaxed from CDC guidelines. Parents informed of their child’s exposure to someone in school with COVID-19 will have the choice to quarantine if their child does not exhibit symptoms. Anyone who is exposed and returns to school within 14 days of the exposure will have to wear a mask, regardless of mask exemptions. The plan does contain a caveat: “FASD will return to quarantine requirements if more than one positive case is noted in the same classroom within 14 days or if there is an increased trend in positive cases at school.” The choice to quarantine only applies to exposure that occurs in school. Students exposed elsewhere will have to follow CDC quarantine guidelines. Two proposed amendments to the plan failed. The first would have removed requirements for audience members and spectators in indoor venues filled to 75% or higher capacity to wear a mask. It failed 5-4. The second would have made masks fully optional and failed 6-3. The plans without any amendments passed 6-3. Other business The board approved the hire of a temporary elementary interventionist for the 2021-22 school year. Administrators told the board that the pandemic has resulted in a significantly higher need for intervention specialists. Even with this position added, many students will still not receive intervention. The board discussed the possibility of adding another position for reading and math intervention. Fourth-grade teacher Sarah Baugh and her students provided a presentation about their recent embryology project. The students broke into small groups to show their posters to board members. They then went to a separate room to make the same presentation to their parents or guardians. There was no public comment. The board’s next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10 in the district board room. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
Five board members were sworn in during the Bermudian Springs School District Board meeting on Monday evening. The board also voted 5-4 to continue to follow the state mask mandate. Incumbents Matthew Nelson and Daniel Chubb, as well as new board members Mary Kemper, Travis Mathna and Jennifer Goldhahn were sworn in. Board member Corey Trostle served as the temporary president until Michael Wool was re-elected as the board’s president and Nelson was elected as the vice-president. Wool led the rest of the meeting. The new board members faced an immediate decision regarding the state’s mask mandate. Some members supported modifying the district’s health and safety plan to allow for optional masks, defying the mandate, while others preferred to follow the state’s directive. Wool said most of the board’s discussion during its caucus meeting pertained to discontinuing the mask mandate. He said he wasn’t attempting a debate of the efficacy of masks. Wool said he struggled with the argument that a mandate is not equal to a law, especially as the mandate is being reviewed in court. “Our authority is derived from the legislature,” Wool said. “The oath that we heard taken tonight was obeying and defending the constitution of the commonwealth and the United States, and the courts will determine if that law is in violation of both constitutions.” Wool’s comments sparked an outcry which he pushed back against, telling one individual Wool did not interrupt him to correct him during the time he spoke. “My next question is, what do we do when we’re asked to ignore another law?” Wool asked. “What do we do if we decide, I don’t know, maybe the Sunshine Laws shouldn’t apply to us because they’re inconvenient? We don’t get to pick and choose.” Wool said he could not ask school administrators to defy the mandate. Goldhahn protested that the state’s Disease and Prevention Act of 1955 was only supposed to be used for a limited time. Wool argued that the board needs outside guidance. “Jen, I hear what you’re saying, except I’m not in a position or have the authority to interpret the law,” Wool said. “That is the scope and domain of the judiciary. The only way the judiciary can override something the legislature passes is constitutional amendment, as we saw happen last spring. So it comes down to playing within our swim lanes, right? We weren’t asked to interpret the law. We weren’t asked to make judgment. That’s what the courts do. That’s the way our form of government was set up.” He used speed limit signs as an example, saying individuals could choose to defy the law and accept consequences when caught. The board had to address the audience multiple times to stop interrupting. Goldhahn said speed limits are unrelated to children or education. “The whole point I’m trying to make with making masks optional is that we restore parents’ rights to let them decide what is in the best interest of our children,” Goldhahn said. “It is the parents’ right. We raise them. We love them. We instill the values, not the government. I feel there’s been gross overreach and we need to end this.” Treasurer Ruth Griffie said her background prompts her to follow the mandate although she dislikes masks. “Do I believe in it? No,” Griffie said. “But I personally have to follow the regulations because my father was a state policeman for 39 years. I was married to city policeman for 32 years. There was regulations and things that we did not like to do but we had to do them.” Some board members were concerned defying the mandate would open the district or board members to liability, exposing the district to financial risk and risking its programs. It was also pointed out that the discussion about knowingly violating the order would be in the public record and on YouTube and could potentially be used against the district if the vote to defy the mandate passed. “At the Senate Hearings back in July, the secretary of education, Noe Ortega, said he would not punish us with fees or fines,” Goldhahn said. However, the Associated Press and other outlets reported in September that when the Tamaqua Area School Board voted to defy the mandate and make masks optional, Ortega warned the district that it co