NEW BETHLEHEM – During their meeting last Tuesday evening, Redbank Valley School Board members heard reports on the first week of school as well as an update on the flood-damaged heating system at the primary school.

“Three weeks ago, I would have never believed we would be where we are today; six weeks ago I really wouldn’t have,” said elementary school principal Cheryl McCauley of the primary school, commending the district’s maintenance staff and teachers’ efforts to ready the building for the first day of school following the July 19-20 flood. She also said that several community members and the Clarion-Limestone School District have donated books, games and other items that teachers need for the classroom. “Watching the primary school, the best word I can come up with is metamorphosis.”

McCauley also thanked the PTO for its efforts to replace 16 classroom carpets, which were obtained through RMS Furniture at wholesale price.

“We got the rugs at a great price, and they came on the first day of school,” she said, explaining that the rugs were delivered to the classrooms and unrolled by the students. “The kids were so excited. It was a make-your-skin-crawl kind of moment.”

McCauley ended her report by saying that there are currently 609 students enrolled in the elementary schools, which shows that the district is growing.

High school principal Amy Rupp began her report by discussing enrollment from 2016 to the current year.

“You can see its peaks and valleys depending on the number of students in each class,” she said, adding that the high school’s enrollment this year is 487 students, including 12 new students. “Next year...we’re projected to be back up to the little over the 500 mark.”

In addition, Rupp said that the high school is continuing efforts to contact district students currently enrolled in cyber school programs outside of Redbank Valley to reenroll in the district.

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“We’re slowly hearing back from about one a week,” she said.

Rupp also reported that she kicked off the school year by challenging students in her building to get to know a new student each week, to join a club or play a new sport, and to attend and watch an athletic event. She also encouraged students to stand up for anyone being mistreated and to always be kind.

“It seemed to go over well,” she said. “I feel the school year got off to a good start.”

In his report, district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo updated the board on replacement of and service contracts for the heating system at the primary school, which was affected in the July flood.

After some discussion about the competing bids, the board voted unanimously on two motions to enter an agreement with Johnson Controls for the complete replacement of unit ventilators in the amount not to exceed $234,100, and to enter an agreement with Combustion Service and Equipment Co. to repair boilers at the primary school for a cost of $13,200 per boiler, totaling $26,400.

Mastillo also noted that results from the latest round of air quality tests in the primary building were even better than previous tests, which showed the air quality to be in the good range.

“The numbers were even lower this time than what they were previously,” he said.

Mastillo concluded his report by saying that after receiving numerous complaints about changes to this year’s dismissal schedule at the primary and intermediate buildings, the district decided to revert to the dismissal process from previous years.

“This will eliminate the crossover and transfer between Intermediate and Primary,” Mastillo explained. “It will reduce the seat time for students coming out of Primary and Intermediate.”

The updated dismissal procedures were set to take effect Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Other Business

• Three board members were recognized for multiple years of service on the board. Dee Bell and Ann Kopnitsky received certificates for 16 and eight years respectively, and Bill Reddinger received a plaque for 24 years of service. The awards were presented by Jim Summerville of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

• Board members voted to enter into an agreement with the New Bethlehem Police Department and New Bethlehem Borough Council to provide traffic control services at the high school at a revised rate of $15 per hour.

Bell abstained from the vote.

• A motion to enter into an agreement with New Bethlehem Borough permitting the use of New Bethlehem Police Department officer services for events and extracurricular activities failed in a 1-7 vote, with Bell abstaining.

• In an 8-1 vote, with board member Darren Bain voting against the motion, the board approved the hiring of Armstrong Lock and Security for events and extracurricular activities at a rate of $34 per hour.

• The board also approved a resolution to request permission from New Bethlehem Borough for the district to have its own school crossing guards.

• The resignation of high school math teacher Eric Painter was accepted. The district will hold Painter for 60 days or until a replacement can be identified.

• Wendy Smith was hired as a part-time speech therapist for 110 school days as a substitute therapist at the district’s daily rate of $90.

Smith’s permanent hire is contingent on her obtaining the required continuing education courses to activate her state certification. Upon official activation, the cost will be based on step one of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for a total cost of $48,972.

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