NEW BETHLEHEM – Two proposed educational programs received the green light for further investigation and possible implementation at last week’s regular meeting of the Redbank Valley School Board.

The eight present board members — board member Carrie Adams was absent — listened as acting superintendent Daniel Hawkins explained the potential benefits for both students and the district should Redbank offer its own cyber school program in-house instead of having students register for the services provided by the many outside cyber programs available across the state.

One major advantage, according to Hawkins, “is just plain financial.”

“This school district is spending almost $400,000 per year on cyber school,” he said following the brief meeting on Sept. 4. “That’s a chunk of money.”

Hawkins pointed out that in addition to the financial implications, a Redbank-sponsored and staffed program has the real possibility of enticing those students who may not want or need cyber school as a full-time experience to reconsider becoming part of the face-to-face learning community again.

“If we could possibly bring some of those students back to the district, use a blended philosophy, tell them that we would be willing to offer a RV diploma instead of a cyber charter school diploma, and bring them in for certain classes, we might have a hook,” he said. A blended program would offer part cyber and part face to face learning opportunities.

Referencing his own experiences with a blended cyber program in the Brookville district, board member Jason Barnett voiced his support for exploring the possibility.

“When we looked at [the cost of cyber school tuition] in the finance committee it is substantial,” Barnett said, indicating that the district needs to do something to address finances. “Things like he’s talking about might bring someone back. I think that it would be worth looking at.”

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The board gave unanimous approval for the superintendent to look into the matter.

A second program Hawkins asked the board to consider supporting was the possibility of Redbank Valley High School entering a dual enrollment program with Mount Aloysius College.

Hawkins told the board that he had already made some preliminary contacts with Mount Aloysius College because of his prior contact with them at Brockway. He said that the agreement would mean that not only could Redbank high school students receive college credits from approved courses they took at Redbank, but that the program came at no cost to the district.

“Basically I [would] highlight the most advanced courses we have here, talk to the teachers, and send their syllabi to Mount Aloysius for approval,” he told the board, noting further that the course has to be taught by at least a master’s level teacher.

The cost, which is incurred by the students taking the classes, would be $55 per credit or $165 per course. Hawkins pointed out that this is a “phenomenal” savings for any student considering college.

“I have personal experience with this program,” Hawkins said. “My son graduated [from high school] with 27 dual enrollment credits and graduated [from college] a year early.”

He also noted that because the courses most often approved and taken in the dual enrollment program mostly cover general education requirements, the credits can typically be transferred to any college or university.

“It’s a great market and I think that we can make this happen,” Hawkins said, pointing out that Mount Aloysius had indicated that Redbank can still get credits approved for this year if they act by Oct. 2.

Again, board members unanimously agreed to allow Hawkins to explore the program further.

Other Business

• During the public concerns portion of the meeting, Porter Township resident Joe Belfield questioned board members on where the district stood in acquiring grant money to help pay the salaries of the new school security guards.

Hawkins explained that while the district has applied for grant money, it has yet to hear whether or not the request has been granted.

“It’s a very competitive grant,” he said. “There’s no guarantee that we will get it.”

• Following up on a recent committee meeting, board member Dee Bell said that the sixth grade committee is getting closer toward hosting a town hall meeting with the community to discuss moving sixth grade to the high school.

“We’re working through the concerns that we got back from the community survey,” board president Chad Shaffer added, explaining that the committee is currently investigating physical changes that may be required at the high school to better accommodate those students. “We need to look at the specifics and costs associated with that.”

• The resignations of part-time school psychologist Suzann Erickson and child specific aide Bethany Sebring were accepted.

• Kathie Johnston and Cori Bowser were retro-hired as child specific aides at a rate of $9.71 per hour.

• Sherri McGinnis was retro-approved as school board secretary.

• Lisa Sayers and Jennifer Rankin were added to the substitute secretary and aide list, and Haley Barrett was retro-added to the district’s bus/van driver list.

• Kelly Minich was hired as a two-and-a-half hour cafeteria aide at a total cost of $4,588.90.

• Christina Hetrick, Vicki Miller, Jaime Sherbine and Cearra Strothers were hired as child specific aides at the corrected rate of $9.71 per hour.

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