State College

State College Area school board delays vote on extended day plan

The State College Area school board on Monday decided it needs more time to develop the extended school day proposal. The final vote, which was slated for Monday, has been pushed back to a later date, yet to be decided.

The board made the decision after an update on the transportation component of the proposal delivered by Randy Brown, finance and operations officer, and an update on the potential fifth special subject at the elementary level delivered by Vernon Bock, assistant superintendent of elementary education.

Under the proposal, the elementary start time moves from 8:44 a.m. back to 8:10 a.m. and the day would end at 3 p.m. instead of 2:50 p.m. Middle and high school students would start at 8:40 a.m. instead of 8:10 a.m. and their day would end at 3:42 p.m. and 3:40 p.m., instead of 3:12 p.m. and 3:16 p.m. respectively.

In April, the district contracted Tyler Technologies, of Latham, N.Y., to conduct a transportation study to analyze any transportation changes that would need to occur if the proposal is implemented.

The results of the study showed a transportation expense increase of between $250,000 and $550,000, but the study did not account for the charter and non-public school students that the district is responsible for transporting.

To deal with the issue, the district reached out to the 11 schools in the summer in an attempt to align the start times and prevent the need for additional buses. The schools were open to changing their start times, but they have recently informed the district that they are no longer willing to change their day, according to Brown.

To accommodate the charter and non-public schools, if the extended day proposal is implemented, the district will develop separate bus routes for the students and they will be dropped off at a central location in the district where they will then be shuttled to their individual schools.

This change could require the district to upgrade six buses to a larger capacity, which would be a one-time expense of between $300,000 and $400,000, according to Brown.

Since the extended day proposal was brought before the board in April, the district has held several community engagement events and one area parents have expressed concern over is what the fifth special subject for elementary school students will be, according to Bock.

Elementary students have four special subjects that they study one day per week: art, music, library and health and physical education. The extended day proposal has suggested adding a world language and culture course, but the updated plan is taking community engagement a step further, according to Bock.

The district is forming a stakeholder steering committee with a representative from each elementary school. That person will engage with teachers and parents to create a survey for all elementary parents on what the fifth special subject should be. The results will be shared with the board this fall.

Regardless of the final decision on the fifth special subject, the district will need to add eight to 10 teaching positions, which could cost about $1 million annually, according to Brown. The staffing increase coupled with the transportation expense increase could cost the district almost $2 million in the first year and about $1.5 million annually.

The board has not set a date for the final vote on the proposal, but anticipates it to be in December.

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi