Lehigh Valley

BASD may have to dig deeper to fund vo-tech school

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - An increased demand means an increased budget for the Bethlehem Area Vocational Technical School and the Bethlehem Area School District will likely bare the brunt of that hike.

That was the story during Monday night's Bethlehem Area School District finance committee meeting, where directors learned that a steadily increasing enrollment at the school requires a $523,903 hike in the vocational school's 2014-2015 operating budget over the current budget.

The increased enrollment at the vo-tech predominantly consists of BASD students, thus Bethlehem will see a $505,253 increase as a result.

The vocational school also provides training for students at two other districts - Saucon Valley and Northampton - according to Brian Williams, executive director of BAVTS, although their student levels have remained flat while BASD's have spiked.

Case in point is that BASD sent 599 students to the school during the 2008-2009 year, and sent 772 students during the 2012-2013 campaign.

It's a cost that's worth the price, according to President Michael Faccinetto. "It's very important we support the school," Faccinetto said to other board members about BAVTS. "..it is so valuable for us."

And that value requires the creation of new programs at BAVTS and new capital investment projects, according to Williams.

On the first part, BAVTS will see new programs in health, manufacturing and logistical training.

In the second item, the 2014-2015 budget proposal presented Monday night includes $200,000 allocated to capital project expenditures.

The new programs should help local businesses and industries fill needs for skilled workers, according to Williams, while the capital project price will be spent over the next three years and include network restructuring improvements and the renovation of student work stations and classrooms.

In one example Williams noted the school's horticulture shop, which became obsolete when the program was struggling thanks to student lack of interest, will be refurbished to the logistics shop.

The committee moved the BAVTS budget for vote at the March 24th full board meeting.

In other business Monday night, during the Human Resources Committee meeting, Superintendent Joseph Roy recommended that snow makeup days potentially set to be rescheduled for June 9th and 10th instead be utilized as professional development days. The district can claim Act 80 in-service days to make up snow days to reach the required 180 days of education.

Roy noted that the district already had four built-in inclement weather makeup days in the 2013-2014 calendar, adding that students also received a full-week of instruction prior to Labor Day.

That fact is now paying dividends for BASD, while other districts are forced to extend the school year to the threshold of summer to make up lost time due to the fierce winter.

The board agreed to move the item to the full board meeting next Monday night.

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