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Drawing the lines: ASD might study policy

FORD CITY — The Armstrong School Board has been scrutinizing its buildings and staffing for the past several years in an effort to lower costs — now its attendence lines could be next.

The board reached a consensus last night its regular meeting to study its attendAnce line policy. Directors Karen Bower, Tim Ashe, Joseph Close and Board President Terry Rupp all agreed that the policy should be looked at, while directors James Solak and D. Royce Smeltzer disagreed.

“I’m not completely convinced this policy is doing this district a service,” Rupp said. “I think it’s precluding us from actually doing viable options.”

The board did not vote on the subject — Rupp simply polled the board as to whether they thought looking at the policy was worthwhile.

Solak, however, said the board has lacked direction, shrugging off a districtwide look at the lines in the past. He added that Rupp’s request to study attendence lines was prompted by dissatisfaction with a recent report by consultant Daniel Dancu on the district’s buildings.

Smeltzer said the discussion was “muddying more waters” in the district.

Rupp said the district must drive down its costs, and that the board was letting buildings dictate staffing, regardless of the number of students in a building.

But Solak said Rupp has repeatedly said buildings need to be closed, but refused to vote to close Kittanning Township, instead looking for ways to fill it up.

The building has been the focus of discussions before, especially when it comes to attendence lines, and Rupp said he didn’t know what the right answer was, but that he wants to look at all the options.

“When are you going to know?” Solak asked Rupp. “We’ve been talking about this for four or five years.”

Rupp did not indicate exactly what the board would look at in its attendence policy, but rather suggested that everything is on the table at this point.

The discussion was a continuation of an argument on the same subject last Monday, prompted by an e-mail from Rupp, who was not at that meeting.

“I guess I lit the fuse on a stink bomb then wasn’t there,” Rupp said.

The board also approved a revised cost estimate for the West Hills project to reflect the recent costs associated with the wetlands study. The building project is now set at $14.25 million. A hearing on the new school project is scheduled for Oct. 20.


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