Lehigh Valley

Weather forces Parkland School District into creative scheduling

Makeup days for snow days missed on new calendar.

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - It's hard to believe but winter will eventually end and when it does count Parkland School District officials are among those who will bid it a sincere farewell.

Thanks to a total of 11 school days that have been cancelled due to inclement weather, the district was forced to go before the board of directors during Tuesday night's meeting and ask for an amended calendar for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year.

Rodney Troutman, the district's assistant superintendent, noted the district has had to cancel three days of instruction - February 13th, 14th and Tuesday - in the last week alone, pushing the district almost to the limit of flexibility.

Troutman noted the district has already extended the school year to Friday, June 20th, and said he "doesn't want to go" into the following week of June 23rd, as that week is devoted to transitioning to summer school classes, which begin the following week on June 30th.

As such Troutman and the Parkland administration have had to resort to creative scheduling, he told directors. The cancelled February 13th date, the ninth closing of the school year, is being made up on June 20th.

With the administration not wishing to extend school any further into summer, the closing on the 14th is being made up on Monday, April 21st and Tuesday's closing will be made up Friday, March 14th.

Troutman added that should the district need to cancel another day on the schedule before winter relinquishes its hold, the district's 12th lost day would be made up as teacher professional development, with no students required to attend school.

The district currently has students scheduled to attend school for 181 days, and there is flexibility with the 181st day. The only remaining days off are holidays - Good Friday, April 18th, and Memorial Day, May 26th.

If a 13th bad weather day is required, the district will be left out in the cold, as no other available days exist, Troutman said, without going into the first official week of summer.

"It's no easy decision to cancel school," said President Roberta Marcus about the massive amount of times Parkland has cancelled school, starting on December 10th.

"It's not a decision the administration takes lightly," she said in defense of the high number of days.

Directors approved the amended calendar unanimously.

In other business, the board awarded several bids to various companies and contractors, including the allocation of $515,940 for the acquisition of six, 72-passenger school buses and $163,338 for the purchase of two, 36-passenger school buses to Duncannon, Pa.based Rohrer Bus Sales.

Directors also awarded several contracts related to the Kratzer Elementary School project, including more than $2.2 million to Bracy Contracting for general trade services.

The district will also pay Barry Isett and Associates $14,000 to install four, 15 mph school zone signs at the same elementary school.

Directors also approved the retirement of Parkland High School Assistant Principal Donna Steckel, effective July 31, 2014.

The administrator was praised by several directors and other administrators for her service to the district and for her 39 years of service in education.

During a workshop meeting prior to the regular board meeting, directors heard presentations from Elaine Eib, the executive director of the Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit and Sandra Himes, executive director of the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, on both organization's proposed 2014-2015 budgets.

CLIU will seek no membership fee increase from the district, while LCTI is proposing a modest increase, largely to offset hikes in health insurance, PSERS and other benefit and payroll tax costs.

The board took no action on either proposed budget Tuesday night. 

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