NEW BETHLEHEM – One month after flood waters ravaged the Redbank Valley Primary School, district officials are confident that the New Bethlehem building will be ready to welcome students and teachers on Wednesday, Aug. 28.
“I don’t anticipate any issues with starting students on Aug. 28,” district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo said earlier this week of the primary building, noting that everyone has been working hard to get the building back in working order. “It will be like a normal first day of school.”
According to Mastillo, new carpeting was installed in the school office, library and speech room of the building on Monday. In addition, the asbestos floor tile found underneath the old carpeting in the office was removed and properly disposed of two weeks ago.
“That air quality test came back clear,” he said of the condition of the office, noting further that the results of a mold analysis throughout the building also came back as “not elevated.” “The air quality in the entire building has been cleared as acceptable. We’ll continue to monitor that as the year goes on, but at this point the air is in good shape.”
The walls in the art/music room are currently being reestablished and will be a different color until they are painted, Mastillo said. Because the equipment in the school’s kitchen was on legs, it wasn’t damaged at all in the July 20 flood. The cafeteria, as well as the entire building was thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
“I know that two days prior to the start of school our cafeteria staff will be in to re-clean everything,” Mastillo said.
A couple of major projects that have yet to be completed, Mastillo added, are replacing the mulch around the playground equipment and repairing or replacing the building’s boiler system.
“I still have two companies that have to provide me with quotes on the boiler system,” Mastillo said. He continued that he anticipates having the boiler system functioning by the time cold weather sets in.
Mastillo said that at this point there are two goals to reach to be ready for the first day of school. One is to ensure the campus is safe. The second is to be sure the teachers have the curriculum they need to start instruction on the first day.
“As far as we’re looking now, we have have the safe campus. We’re just making sure that the curriculum material is in the teachers’ hands,” he said, noting that some textbooks and other course materials were damaged.
Describing their efforts in the clean-up and preparation of the building, PTO treasurer Laura Neiswonger said that the group is within $500 of the needed funds to replace all 14 classroom rugs that were destroyed in the flood. She added that any additional money raised will be used to purchase classroom books to replace those that were damaged.
“The big thing is that air quality tests were completed and we’ve come in under the acceptable level on all of them,” Mastillo said. “That’s hopefully good news for parents and community members.”
for New Year
Turning his attention to district-wide preparations, Mastillo reported that there are some changes and innovative ideas that will be implemented during the new school year.
First, the district will continue to investigate the possibility of launching its own cyber academy, which district officials hope will bring Redbank Valley students who are participating in external cyber schools back to the district. Mastillo said that a cyber academy could also open new possibilities like blended scheduling at the high school.
Secondly, Mastillo said, the district will continue to work on curriculum alignment so that there will be instructional consistency at all grade levels.
The district is also adjusting security practices.
“We want to have better control of people in and out of the buildings,” Mastillo said, explaining that security will be present in all three district schools.
High school principal Amy Rupp reported that security at the high school will be tightened for the 2019-2020 school year.
“All visitors to the school will be subject to wanding and will need to present a valid driver’s license to verify their identity for an appointment,” she said. “Parents dropping off items for their children will leave the items at the security desk for distribution.”
Rupp also said that there are some new elective courses available to students this year, such as Robotics, Safe Serve (Food Prep) and a Career Options course.
“As of now, all teachers are returning for the 2019-2020 school year,” she added.
She also noted that fall sports are in full swing, and homecoming will be held on Sept. 27.
At the elementary level, kindergarten teacher Tammi Starcher said last week that students in the Primary building will notice the addition of a sensory pathway to the kindergarten wing hallway.
Secured to the floor, the sensory pathway is a colorful and fun walkway that combines learning with a series of exercises that help with the development of motor skills such as balance, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and more.
“It helps kids practice things like letters, numbers and shapes, but also gets them up and moving,” Starcher said, explaining that the pathway is a great way to curb inattentiveness and give students a break during the school day.
The Primary school’s pathway was designed by the kindergarten teachers, and funded with grant money from Donors Choose and PASR, as well as a donation from the PTO.
“The grant money actually helped us purchase a Cricut machine for the building,” Starcher said. “That’s what we used to create the pathway.”
Although located in the kindergarten wing of the building, Starcher said that the sensory pathway can be used by all students in the school.
“Being a new school year, everything is launching on a positive note,” Mastillo concluded. “I’m looking forward to an exciting year.”