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Student vaping on the rise at RVHS

NEW BETHLEHEM – In a survey conducted last year, 64.7 percent of the seniors in the Redbank Valley School District reported using an e-cigarette or vape within the past 30 days.

Redbank Valley High School principal Amy Rupp cited this statistic to explain an increase in Level 4 disciplinary violations at the high school — caused mainly by the ever-growing popularity of vaping among students.

“I was shocked when I saw [those numbers],” Rupp said, noting that just in the past month she has confiscated six vaping devices from students on school grounds. “That’s more than one per week.”

According to Rupp, vaping devices come in all shapes and sizes, and can include anything from traditional e-cigarettes and vapes to nicotine-containing Juul pods and even newer dab pens, which primarily contain liquid marijuana or THC.

“Examples of all of these devices have been confiscated at RVHS,” Rupp said, adding that students involved come from every grade and from every academic and social group. In fact, the previously mentioned survey also indicates that vaping is increasing in popularity among students of all ages. According to the survey, 10 percent of last year’s sixth-graders at Redbank Valley, as well as 14.5 percent of eighth-graders and 25.5 percent of tenth-graders reported using an e-cigarette or vape in the last 30 days.

Rupp also reported that three recent vaping incidents have involved junior high students.

“Students are becoming less discrete in vaping on school grounds,” Rupp said, explaining that students have been caught vaping on the bus, in class and in the restroom. “I’ve talked with principals from other local districts and they have the same concerns.”

Because vaping is a Level 4 disciplinary offense under the Pennsylvania School Tobacco Control Act, Rupp said that the penalties for possession can be quite severe and include confiscation of the device and any related paraphernalia — such as chargers — an automatic 10-day suspension, and a maximum $300 fine or community service imposed by the district magistrate.

In addition, Rupp said district officials are also looking to add mandatory attendance at tobacco cessation classes hosted by the Armstrong-Clarion-Indiana Drug and Alcohol Commission and suspension from extra-curricular activities for the remainder of the school year.

“Whether they contain nicotine or not, parents need to know that anything associated with these devices is illegal according to the school handbook and will be confiscated,” Rupp said, noting that the school police officers have done “a fantastic job” in helping with searches and investigations.

In an informational video circulated to parents of RVHS students, Rupp offered a list of warning signs to help parents detect vaping problems with their students.

The first tip is to be aware of the various types of vaping devices that are available. Rupp pointed out that while traditional vaping devices are easy to identify, Juuls are less conspicuous. Juul pods hide easily and can be mistaken for a computer flashdrive.

“We’ve heard a lot of things like vaping is safer than cigarettes, but Juuls are really stepping things up and mimicking the nicotine effects that cigarettes provide,” Rupp said, noting that a single Juul cartridge provides roughly the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. She added that students often begin vaping because it is considered “fun and cool,” but soon discover that being smokeless or electronic do not make the devices any less addictive than their real-tobacco counterparts.

In addition to the presence of vaping devices, Rupp said parents should also be aware of any unusual online purchases or packages, scents of fruity or bubble gum flavoring, an increase of thirst or nose bleeds in their children, a decrease of caffeine usage or the use of vaping lingo in text messages or on social media.

To further keep the school safe, Rupp also encouraged students to confidentially report any signs of vaping in the building to their teachers or administration.

“Parents should talk to their kids about vaping,” she said, urging parents to keep vaping devices out of the hands of their children. “It’s very important to partner with the we can work together to help our students make good choices and be successful in and out of school.”

Evanne / By EVANNE GAREIS L-V Staff Writer 

SEVERAL DR. SEUSS and other storybook characters came to life at Redbank Valley Primary School on Thursday, March 7, as students and staff celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday and national Read Across America Day with a full-day of Seuss-inspired activities and crafts. During one of the sessions, kindergartners Aiden Scott (right) and Crosby Willison decorated their own pet rocks.

Evanne / By EVANNE GAREIS L-V Staff Writer 

EASY DOES IT — with classmate Devon Weckerly (center) cheering them on, fifth-graders BaiLee McCauley (left) and Shea Lufsey carefully build a large structure using note cards and plastic cups while honoring Dr. Seuss Day and Read Across America Day at Redbank Valley Intermediate School on Friday, March 8. Several students and staff members dressed as their favorite storybook characters to mark the day-long celebration, which also included crafts, a door decorating contest, storytime with district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo and more. More photos inside!

EBVFD plans for fire engine refurbishment

EAST BRADY – More than 20 years after it was custom-built to serve its community, a fire engine belonging to the East Brady Volunteer Fire Department is getting a makeover.

EBVFD officials recently detailed plans to refurbish the department’s 1996 Spartan fire engine.

“We decided to refurbish our current truck since we know what we have and can extend its service life,” EBVFD president Lucas McCluskey said. “With less help and the constant rise in our yearly expenses, we thought this would be our best course of action.”

According to McCluskey, approximately 90 percent of the current fire engine will be refurbished as part of the project — which includes updates to the truck’s pump and plumbing, lighting, tool mounting and foam systems and seating, as well as partial paint and body work.

The work will be completed by Fast of the Allegheny Mountains of Somerset at an estimated cost of $97,000.

“We knew we had to do something if we wanted to keep using the current truck,” McCluskey said. He explained that although it’s still in “relatively good shape,” the doors on the fire engine were starting to rust, and the seats and pumps starting to show wear. “We wanted to stay ahead of some of these things so they didn’t get worse.”

Although the department looked into purchasing a fire engine, McCluskey said it could not afford the minimum $300,000 price tag for a new customized truck.

“The truck was built for our rural region,” McCluskey said, adding that the truck was constructed by New Lexington in Somerset in 1996 to easily maneuver East Brady’s small streets and equipped with a better suction hose for drawing water out of the nearby Allegheny River. “We wanted to be able to keep it for at least another 10 years.”

McCluskey said that although the fire department will pay for as much of the refurbishment as possible, it hopes to offset some of the cost with the help of donations from the municipalities in which it serves — which is what brought him and EBVFD treasurer Ethan Hopper to the East Brady Borough Council meeting on March 5.

“We wanted to see if the borough would be interested in putting any money toward the refurbishment of the truck,” McCluskey told East Brady Borough Council members during the public concerns portion of last week’s meeting, explaining that he had already met with Brady, Madison (Clarion County) and Perry townships about possible donations. EBVFD provides emergency response to East Brady Borough, and Brady, Bradys Bend and Perry townships. It also has mutual aid agreements with Rimersburg and Sligo boroughs, as well as Sugarcreek and part of Madison (Clarion County) townships. “We want to talk with everyone in our coverage area that gives us fire tax money.”

He noted that as operating expenses for the fire department continue to increase, donations from the local community would “help immensely” with keeping the current fire engine on the road.

While work on EBVFD’s only fire engine is estimated to take between three and four months to complete, McCluskey reassured borough officials that the department would remain active during that time.

“We will still provide fire protection to the borough,” he said, adding that the fire department will utilize its tanker and rely on more help from its mutual aid companies while the engine is being refurbished. “We will still respond to every call.”

Following a brief discussion regarding possible financing options available to the fire department, East Brady Borough officials said they planned to give the EBVFD $5,000 toward the truck refurbishment at this time.

Although the EBVFD is currently reaching out to municipalities, McCluskey said anyone can help by providing monetary support for the refurbishment project. Donations can be sent: East Brady Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 129, East Brady, PA 16028.

“Any amount would help a great deal,” he said.

Other Business

• Also during the public concerns portion of last week’s meeting, council members heard from two borough residents who raised concerns that an upcoming paving project along Second Avenue would bury a ditch that currently directs water from the top of the hill into a culvert.

“They want to fill the entire ditch that has been working really well,” one resident said, noting that the drain from her house could clog if the ditch is filled completely.

Council members and borough engineer Rick Barnett said they would meet with the contractor to sort out the issue.

“The contractor will not cover up a drain like that,” Barnett said. “It [the drain] will still function when they’re done.”

• Council members authorized the advertisement of bids for the Grant Street project as soon as the borough receives approval from the county.

• Council president Barb Mortimer said that the borough recently purchased four sandwich board signs to use at various events throughout the borough’s 150th Anniversary Celebration.

She noted that the signs will also be available to other local organizations to use for various events.

• The council approved a bid from Dennis Myers of Myers Electric to install a caustic soda pump at the water plant.

Barnett explained that Myers’s original bid of $3,587 excluded some minor work that needed to be accounted for and recommended that the council approve the bid at a total cost not to exceed $5,000.

The borough received a second bid from JP Environmental at a cost of $10,900.

• The purchase of a new bucket for the borough’s backhoe was approved in the amount of approximately $1,200.

• Council members receive a letter stating that $45,288.07 was deposited into the borough’s Liquid Fuels account for 2019.

Used mostly for street repair, the deposit brings East Brady’s Liquid Fuels account to a total of approximately $66,000.

Union adjusts as gym floor replacement looms

RIMERSBURG – The final months of any school year can be very hectic, but this year’s homestretch at Union High School has been complicated by damage to the main gymnasium’s floor.

The extreme cold spell at the start of February resulted in a water line break at the school, which flooded the main gym, lobby and other areas of the Rimersburg school.

In recent weeks, the wooden gym floor has warped and bowed in places, forcing the district to stop using what is one of the busiest rooms in the entire school.

“We’re moving a lot of our stuff to the auxiliary gym,” UHS principal Kris Glosser said yesterday (Tuesday).

Glosser noted that the district’s insurance carrier has deemed the gymnasium floor to be a liability issue, and has instructed the school to stop using the gym. With the district’s musical production of Willy Wonka set for later this week, and with the stage attached to the gym, special permission was granted by the insurers for use of the room during the production. Glosser said those attending the musical will see some orange cones set up at various places in the gym, and people will be on hand to warn visitors of the uneven floor.

After the show wraps up this weekend, Glosser said the plan is to begin work soon on replacement of the entire gymnasium floor. She said the insurance company has indicated that it will pay for the work. She said the project will be done while school is in session, and that the gymnasium will be sealed off to prevent dust from coming into the school. The project will also include work to re-sand the stage so that its surface matches the new gymnasium floor.

Although the musical will be accommodated, Glosser said district officials are scrambling to relocate many of the other activities that take place in the gym during the final months of the school year, including prom and graduation.

“I’ve been trying to get student feedback,” she said of talking with students, especially seniors, to find out where they want their prom and graduation to be held.

For the prom, Glosser said the insurance company has offered to pay rental fees involved with moving the prom off school property; however, she said that with little time remaining to book a venue, it appears that the Prom Committee is leaning toward holding the prom in the school’s auxiliary gymnasium.

“The Prom Committee really looks forward to decorating for this,” Glosser said, noting that work on making the decorations has already begun. She said if they decided to keep the prom at the school, the lobby and driveway circle can still be used for the traditional promenade entrance and photos.

While it is unknown when the work on the new gym floor will be completed, Glosser said she is working to line up other options in case the school’s graduation needs to be held elsewhere. She said she is looking into using Clarion University’s Marwick-Boyd Auditorium, or possibly moving the ceremony outside to the UHS football field. Prices are being sought for tents, chairs, a sound system and other items needed if the school goes that route.

“We’re still sorting out some of those answers,” she said.

As for other school events, Union athletic director Scott Kindel said the loss of the main gymnasium creates some challenges, especially with scheduling practices for the spring sports. He said they’ve been able to accommodate practices in the auxiliary gym for the baseball and softball programs, as well as junior high volleyball team. He said the track team has been able to go outside on nice days, and use the school hallways when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Some practice times will be lost as other events are held in the auxiliary gym, Kindel said, and a junior high volleyball tournament scheduled for early April has been canceled.

“All in all, we are not affected too much, but this sure reminds me of two things,” Kindel said. “First, we are blessed to have flexible and understanding coaches and student-athletes, who are making the best of a situation that is not the greatest. And second, we are blessed to have a second gym to use when one is not able to be used.”

As for the elementary musical and concerts which are usually held at the high school, decisions have yet to be made for hosting them in a new venue. Glosser said officials are looking into possibly using the Sligo Recreation Center gym and stage, or other facilities, however no decisions have been made yet.

The same goes for the high school band and choir concerts, according to music teachers Lisa Hummel and David Gibson.

Hummel said that while the High School Jazz Band and High School Percussion Ensemble Concert will be held next Wednesday in the Auxiliary Gym beginning at 7 p.m., more time is needed to figure out the remaining schedule.

“The Music Department as a whole has adapted to most situations when it comes to performance venues,” Hummel said. “This is just one more situation that we will adapt to so that our students have the best performance experience that we are able to provide.”

Hometown Hero banner orders due April 1 in Rimersburg

RIMERSBURG – The deadline to order Hometown Hero banners for the Rimersburg area is fast approaching.

April 1 is the final day to place orders for this year’s Hometown Hero banner campaign, according to organizer Rosalie Bliss.

Applications may be picked up at Wildflowers along Main Street in Rimersburg, or by calling (814) 227-4101.

The cost of a new banner package is $125.

Also, it is time for those who have purchased banners in previous years to pay the $10 fee to rehang the banners this year.

Bliss said that while the banners will be hung in early May, there will be a change for when the banners are taken down later this year. Instead of leaving the banners up through Veterans Day, Bliss said due to poor weather and the difficulty in scheduling volunteers, the banners will be taken down before the end of October this year.

Bliss said another reason for the change is to help preserve the banners so that they last longer. She noted that it is up to the families of the veterans to replace any banner that needs to be replaced after five years.

Volunteers are needed to organize the banners, traffic control, and other duties from the ground. Anyone who has a bucket truck is also needed.

Bliss said that the program will feature more than 300 banners this year and help is needed to support the local veterans.

Leisurely Visits

The curtain rises this week on our local high school musical season as Union High School presents Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka” Thursday through Saturday.

The musical production will begin at 7 p.m. each night, and tickets are just $5 at the door.

And coming soon, Redbank Valley High School will present Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” April 5-7. Mark your calendars now, and be sure to check back with The L-V in the next couple of weeks for a special poster dedicated to the show and its cast.

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In this week’s L-V, you won’t want to miss the return of our popular Yesteryears look back at news from past issues of the newspaper.

But, this time it’s different, as a full page will be dedicated to Yesteryears in the second issue of each month.

Thank you to the advertisers who have helped make this page possible, and we invite any other local businesses to advertise on what will surely be one of our most popular pages. Just call Deb at (814) 275-3131 ext. 224.

We are also looking for vintage photos from the area — Redbank Valley, Rimersburg, Sligo, East Brady, Clarion and surrounding communities — to showcase on the Yesteryears pages in the coming months. You can bring the photos to our office where we will scan them and send them home with you, or email quality images to us at

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Congratulations from The L-V to Tracy Myers from the Cancer Center at Clarion Hospital who was named the Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry’s Citizen of the Year at this past weekend’s annual chamber dinner. And congratulations to all the other award winners from the night.

The awards will continue this weekend as the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce holds its annual awards dinner on Saturday. Be sure to pick up a copy of next week’s Leader-Vindicator for a full report on Redbank’s award winners.

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A couple of big events are coming up in the next week, starting off with St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, March 17.

Whether you are truly Irish or just an honorary Irishman for the holiday, we wish you a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day.

And then there’s the big day on Wednesday, March 20 as we usher in the official start of the spring season.

It’s too early to say if the start of spring will actually translate into real spring weather, but our fingers are crossed even though the National Weather Service predicts we could see snow showers at the start of next week.

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As the weather starts to improve (we hope) and you feel the urge to get out of the house, remember that we are always accepting photos for our annual “Take The L-V With You” travel photograph promotion.

Whether it’s a day trip, a weekend getaway or a full blown family vacation, all you need to do is remember to take a copy of The Leader-Vindicator with you, stop at a memorable site along your journey and snap a photo of your travel party with the newspaper.

Then you can send the photo and information to us at, drop it off at our office, or mail it in to us at: The Leader-Vindicator, 435 Broad Street, New Bethlehem, PA 16242.

We will collect photos throughout spring and summer, and publish them all together at the end of September.