State College

State College Area school board will continue to study extending elementary school day

An extended day could be in the works for State College Area elementary schools, but the wait would be longer.

The school board Monday discussed the results of a survey to gauge elementary school parents’ interest in the exploration of extending the school day 30 to 40 minutes. The survey’s link was emailed to 4,323 SCASD K-6 parents Sept. 27 and was available to be taken online until Oct. 10.

The school district received 1,294 responses, 78.9 percent of which favored the board looking into an extended school day, which prompted the board to unanimously vote to continue to study the matter.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said the district’s elementary school day is 6 hours and 6 minutes, the shortest in the state.

K-8 Assistant Superintendent Jason Perrin said during the meeting that the earliest any changes could come into effect is fall 2016, though no changes are guaranteed. He also said the district’s next step is to look at how extended days would impact districtwide staffing, budgets, transportation, programming and scheduling.

Parents were able to choose more than one answer for why they would support an extended school day.

About 77.6 percent who would favor an extended school day wanted a greater focus on core subjects, such as math, English, science and social studies. Another 67.4 percent would support an extended day if it meant more education on foreign languages.

Parents who did not want the board to explore an extended day tended to cite concerns about overworking children and not wanting longer school days to cut into extracurricular activities and family time.

The board also approved an additional $117,715 in expenses for phase one of the Panorama Village building renovation, though the cost falls within the project’s $1.5 million budget. The added expenses bring the phase one cost to about $1.3 million.

The board also unanimously approved advertising and bidding to begin for asbestos removal at the Panorama Village building. Asbestos was used in the 19th and 20th century for electrical insulation and building insulation, but exposure to it over a long period of time could cause cancer.

The estimated cost of the removal is $35,000. Sargent Enterprises removed about half the building asbestos in 2013 for $33,980. The asbestos removal will begin phase two to renovate the building sometime in 2015.

The board also reviewed the State High project’s updated calendar.

On Wednesday, students and the district’s security team will review the project’s 30 percent complete designs, and an information fair will be held. The board will hold a work session on Nov. 3 for the project.

The board will likely approve the plans Nov. 10. Designers will then incorporate suggestions from the board, staff, students, security team and community into its 60 percent complete designs.