RIMERSBURG and NEW BETHLEHEM – Heat and security were on the minds of parents, students, administrators and staff as the second week of classes get underway in the Union and Redbank Valley school districts.
Although buildings in neither district are physically equipped to deal with the extreme heat the area has experienced the past week, both districts have implemented measures to address the issue, and most students and faculty seem to be coping well.
“It’s been warm, there’s no doubt about it, but the kids and staff have been doing a wonderful job dealing with it,” Redbank Valley interim superintendent Dan Hawkins said.
Redbank Valley elementary principal Cheryl McCauley agreed that, while the heat is tough, everyone is tolerating it.
“You can tell just by walking past the classrooms that learning is going on,” she said. “I think everyone is doing well.”
Administrators in both districts reported on Tuesday that teachers and students have been encouraged to wear lighter clothing and even permitted to wear shorts. In some cases, fans have been provided by the district and individual teachers, and officials from both districts encouraged students to stay hydrated by either bringing empty, fillable water bottles from home or purchasing water on site as per school policy.
“I would suggest parents send their children to school with a clear water bottle,” Union superintendent Jean McCleary said. “Bottled water will be available for students in all three buildings who do not bring a water bottle to school.”
Hawkins even reported that after school sporting events will have mandatory time-outs and close monitoring by the Athletic Director and trainers to keep the extreme conditions in check.
Union elementary principal Tom Minick also noted the extra precautions being taken to safeguard students from the heat.
“It’s important to keep them hydrated and monitor their physical activity and Physical Education and recess,” he said.
So far neither district has had any major heat-related incidences to report.
Another issue that could have caused disruption at the start of school, but also seems to be handled in stride is security.
With the implementation of new security systems like school police officers in both districts and the installation of metal detectors at Union, everyone has had to deal with new policies and the presence of security officers.
Hawkins said that the new two-point entry system for students at Redbank Valley High School is working and the security officers are fitting in well.
Redbank Valley High School principal Amy Rupp concurred.
“The new SPO (School Police Officer) at the high school has adjusted quite well and is working with Mrs. Bonfardine, the new Dean of Students, and myself to acclimate to the school and its procedures,” Rupp said.
McCauley pointed out the benefit of having the SPOs rotate between the three district buildings before assigning a specific officer to a permanent position.
“They will all get to know the buildings, the offices and the teachers. Then once that’s done they will discuss which building they each feel that they will be best at,” McCauley said of the SPOs. “So far the kids have adjusted well to them even if they are temporary at this point.”
Union officials also provided a positive report regarding the district’s security system.
High School principal Kris Glosser said that high school students have adjusted well to the presence of the metal detector.
“The first day was quite a learning experience for everyone,” she noted. “The students were being moved through the detector too slowly, as most every backpack set off the machine and there was too little space for them to unpack their bags”
For the second day, longer tables were added to the space which allowed students to get through much faster.
“The students are still learning what objects set off the detector.” Glosser continued. “Each day they are demonstrating a knowledge of what they need to unpack from their bags before going through the machine.”
McCleary noted the community support for the district’s new security measures.
“I had several parents tell me that it was reassuring to know our district buildings have metal detectors and that police officers were hired,” she said.
She was also pleased with the smooth transition students demonstrated to the use of the metal detector.
“By Friday the process for entering the buildings was seamless. We thought that it would take at least two or three weeks, but it only took three days,” McCleary added.
From all indications, neither heat nor the implementation of new security measures have dampened the spirits at the start of a new school year in the Union or Redbank Valley districts.