A special program for students with severe disabilities will be implemented next year in the Palmerton Area School District.

The school board on an 8-0 vote Tuesday agreed to establish a Life Skills class for its students at S.S. Palmer Elementary in the 2012-13 school year. Director Josann Harry was absent.

In a related matter, the board created one teacher position with Special Ed certification, and one support staff position for the newly created Life Skills class.

After the meeting, Superintendent Carol Boyce told the TIMES NEWS the salaries for those positions will be in accordance with the support staff teachers contract.

Life Skills support classes provide education to students in grades 4-6 with severe disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, Autism, and severe learning disabilities.

Students may participate in the class full-time, or they may participate within a regular education class for some subject areas. The curriculum is individualized for each student in the class, and is based on the goals and specially-designed instruction within each of their individually-designed education plans.

At present, the district sends its Life Skills students to programs run by the Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21 and Lehighton Area School District, as stated at a board meeting last month.

The average cost for a student to attend a Life Skills program at CLIU21 is $24,084, without transportation, while the average cost for a student to attend the program run by Lehighton is $14,180, without transportation.

The cost for the district to send five students to the IU class, and four others to the Lehighton program, would have been $177,170, without taking into account transportation.

Meanwhile, the cost to hire a special-education teacher with eight years experience and a master's degree, would be $81,514 (pay and benefits), while the cost to hire an instructional assistant would be $10,058.

The hirings will result in a savings of at least $85,598 to the district. An extra savings is likely to be realized in the area of transportation, as well.

Additionally, two students who currently attend a district elementary school will be recommended to attend the district's Life Skills program next year. The cost to have those students attend out-of-district programs next year would be between $28,360 to $48,168.

The district will have 11 students from the district enrolled in the program. Of those, five will be sixth graders next year, while the district will have three transition into the class from the K-3 Life Skills class.

In other business, the board:

Ÿ Approved the reinstatement of a furloughed instructional aide per the support contract. The employee will be rehired at his or her prior salary.

Ÿ Approved change order #001 for the district water mitigation project, Jones Masonry Restoration Corporation project #1059010.010. The contract sum will be decreased by this change order in the amount of $45,055, and the new contract sum including this change order will be $111,945.

Ÿ Approved the contract for the eLearn 21 Cyber school partnership with IU21, to be effective beginning with the 2012-13 fiscal/school year.

Ÿ Approved the 2012-13 Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit General Operating budget.

Ÿ Approved the Lehigh Carbon Community College Operating, Debt Service, and Capital Expenditures budgets for the fiscal year 2012-13.

Ÿ Accepted the second reading, and approved policies #707, Use of Facilities Policy, and #707R, Use of Facilities Regulations.

Ÿ Approved payment of grievance EA 2009-1, in the amount of $11,083, for settlement of retiree health benefits from 2006-2009.

Ÿ Approved the proposal from Kistler O' Brien for the corrective measures for the high school fire protection system, at the cost of $1,260.

Ÿ Approved continued unpaid leave for Rose Mann, cafeteria worker, beginning Feb. 132. A return to work date is to be determined.

Ÿ Approved salary adjustments for horizontal movement on the respective salary level per the teachers' negotiated contract, effective the second semester of the 2011-12 school year, for Lisa Ward, from BS to MS, and Brianna Carroll, from BS to BS+24.

Ÿ Approved the addition of Courtney Everett, elementary; Joelle Snyder, elementary and special education; Krystallynn Reis, early childhood; Jessica Gasper, art K-12; Lauren Strohl, elementary and special Education; Cody Sassaman, elementary; Cathryn Seachrist, guest teacher; and Maria Shirar, Spanish, to the day-to-day substitute teacher list, effective Feb. 22.

Ÿ Adopted the Real Estate Tax Universal Installment Plan, providing an option for installment payment of real estate taxes for all taxpayers pursuant to the Taxpayer Relief Act.

Ÿ Approved the request of the National Honor Society and Gifted Program for a one-day field trip to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., with Alex Knoll, Brent Harris and Diane Hanna on May 3, with expenses to be paid for by the students with the approximate cost of $300 to the district for three substitutes.

Ÿ Approved the request of the National Junior Honor Society for a one-day field trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City with Brad Landis on May 17, with expenses paid for by the students, with the approximate cost of $100 to the district for one substitute.

Ÿ Exonerated current tax collectors Maria Smith, Bowmanstown Borough, $1,940; Connie Brown, Lower Towamensing Township, $5,030; Diane Andreas, Palmerton Borough, $7,690; and Mary Beers, Towamensing Township, $5,470.

Ÿ Approved the Bieber Transportation Group Charter Bus service contract for the Palmerton Area High School Student Council Field Trip to Harrisburg.

Ÿ Appointed Berkheimer Associates, Bangor, as the delinquent tax collector of the 2011-12 school year per capita taxes, effective Jan. 1, 2012 (there is no fee assessed to the district for this service, as the fees are assessed to the taxpayer).

Ÿ Accepted the single audit report, June 30, 2011.