A drug testing policy for Tamaqua Area School District students is still in the developmental phase.

The district's board of education initiated discussion on such a policy last month, and Stephen P. Toth, assistant principal at Tamaqua Area High School, has been charged with gathering information on testing regulations used by neighboring districts.

Toth updated the board's education committee Tuesday evening on his progress regarding a possible policy.

So far, the district's administration, teachers and coaches have meet on the matter, Toth reported, adding it is hoped to also get community members and students involved in providing input, then move on to the policy making.

The district is considering testing students in its middle and high schools who are involved in school activities, such as sports.

"From the middle school on up, about two-thirds to three-fourths of the students are involved in extra-curriculars," said Board President Larry A. Wittig, who sees such as policy as being a preventative measure. "I see the policy as taking kids who are in the middle and could go either way, who might be on the edge," he added.

"It would be for anyone involved in any school-related activity," said Superintendent Carol Makuta.

Toth said he has looked into a couple of testing sites and that the effort "is moving in the right direction."

Makuta said the administration has been examining the need for such a policy. "We have the collective testimony of teachers and while we don't have the drug and alcohol survey results from this year, we have them from last year," she stated.

Toth mentioned that an ominous sign was spotted near the high and middle school campus regarding possible drug use.

"In cities and towns, having shoes placed on a power line is a sign of where these things happen," said Toth. "We found shoes dangling across a power line up Stadium Hill, near the stadium. "That's very telling, and we need to look into it."

Toth added that the shoes were removed from the line.

"It's been eye-opening, and educational as well," Toth remarked.

Makuta said exactly what kind of testing policy the district will implement depends on the cost.

"It comes down to money," she said. "We are looking at ways to finance it, whether it's through grants or individual donations."

The education committee approved the first reading of amended policies for drug and alcohol use by administrators, teachers and non-instructional employees.

Recycling agreement

The district is in the process of entering into an agreement with Hazleton Oil and Environmental, Inc., to handle its recycling program.

The proposal, which would begin on Nov. 15, would significantly reduce the district's trash volume by removing all cardboard, paper, plastic, aluminum, tin and glass products from the waste stream. Hazleton Oil and Environmental would pick up and transport those materials to an end user or legitimate recycler, and not to a landfill.

Also as part of the proposal, the firm is offering to provide recycling training and education for all district administrators, staff and students and will provide recycling bins if needed, otherwise it will utilize receptables the schools already have. The district has the option to place locks on the bins, as long as Hazleton Oil and Environmental has access to the keys.

The company will also maintain detailed records of the materials picked up and taken for recycling.

Hazleton Oil and Environmental will bill the district $75 per pick-up, per site, for the service.

Wittig, who owns the Tamaqua Transfer station, noted that recycling is not the money making business many people think it is.

Makuta said the cost of having Hazleton Oil and Environmental haul away recyclables is offset by what the district would have to pay its own employees to haul those items around.

"We are not locked into a contract yet, but we need to give them 30 days notice," added Makuta.

Other business

The education committee approved Makuta's recommendation for a two-hour early dismissal for students on Wednesday, Nov. 25, for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Business Manager Connie Ligenza reported that the district's state audit for the 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 fiscal school years were successfly completed, as was the audit for the district's health and welfare trust for 2008 and 2009.

The finance committee is considering an agreement for Bill Services review with Utilitech, Inc. of West Lawn, Pa. that would have the firm review electric and telecommunication bills for overbilling and non-applicable taxes. Any refunds gained would be split by the district and Utilitech.