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Elementary classrooms may be changed

Published February 04. 2010 05:00PM

Palmerton Area School District may experience a shift its elementary school classrooms next year.

Sherrie Fenner, director of curriculum and instruction, discussed enrollment projections with the school board's Curriculum, Athletics, Personnel and Policy Committee on Tuesday.

Fenner said Towamensing Elementary would likely have to be shuffled due to the retirement of two teachers.

She said sixth grade would see a decrease from three sections to two sections, fourth grade an increase from two sections to three sections.

Also, second grade could see an increase from two sections to three, and first grade a decrease from two sections to one, Fenner said.

Changes could be in store at the S.S. Palmer and Parkside Education Centers, as well, she said.

Fenner said first grade, second grade, and fourth grade are each expected to see a decrease of one teacher.

"We would have a total decrease of three teachers," Fenner said. "And we have four retirements."

Superintendent Carol Boyce said the district shouldn't encounter any shortage of teacher candidates at the elementary level.

"You have a month to two months to decide on the hirings," Boyce said.

In another curriculum related item, the committee heard a presentation on the Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit's 2010-11 Operating Budget.

Bob Keegan, executive director of the CLIU, gave an overview of the budget, which he said comes in at over $80 million.

"The IU continues to grow, and our budgets continue to increase because the number of students are increasing," Keegan said.

Keegan said the district will see nearly a 3-percent, or $551 increase in its portion of the budget.

The district paid $19,020 in 2009-10, while the proposal for 2010-11 is $19,571, Keegan said.

The board is expected to vote on the CLIU budget when it meets at 7 p.m. Feb. 16.

Finally, Boyce praised the district for the way it handled the death of a high school student.

Sophomore Nick Bickowski was found dead in his home on Jan. 22 after he took his life at the age of 16.

Boyce said once she learned of the details, Boyce said she contacted the "FLIGHT Team", an organization that supports crisis intervention services for school districts and their communities in the aftermath of a traumatic experience.

Affiliated with the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit No. 21, the FLIGHT Team is comprised of 66 members, such as administrators, bus drivers, athletic directors, school psychologists, guidance counselors, police officers, emergency management responders, social workers, security personnel, and teachers.

Boyce said five or six FLIGHT members, the district's five guidance counselors, the district's two school psychologists, and the district's drug and alcohol counselor came in to meet with the students upon news of Bickowski's death.

A funeral service for Bickowski was held last Thursday at Faith Alive United Methodist Church, Bowmanstown. After Bickowski's burial at the Towamensing cemetery, high school students released balloons in his memory.

Later that evening, Jim Tkach of the Bo Tkach Memorial Foundation, visited the high school auditorium to speak with parents about the situation. The next day, Tkach spoke to high school and junior high students as a way to help them cope.

"I was rather stunned and surprised to hear that we were the first public school [to have Tkach as a guest speaker]," Boyce said. "I was extremely impressed."

Boyce said all indications suggest the program was a success.

"I have heard only good things about how the district dealt with this," she said. "The kids wanted to continue on with their athletic events."

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