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Despite request, schools to open before Labor Day again

Published February 22. 2012 05:01PM

Palmerton Area School District will continue its trend and start next school year prior to the Labor Day holiday, despite a request for a post-holiday opening.

The school board, on an 8-0 vote Tuesday, approved the 2012-13 school district calendar, which calls for the school year to start the week before Labor Day. Director Josann Harry was absent.

That decision came after the board heard a request from Jack Sturm, a representative of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, to begin classes after the Monday Labor Day holiday for the next three consecutive years.

Sturm said that in 2012, Labor Day falls on Sept. 3; in 2013, it falls on Sept. 2, and in 2014, it falls on Sept. 1.

"This represents a unique opportunity to return to a historic norm for school opening after Labor Day," Sturm said. "Beyond the favorability of the calendar, there are both important economic and social reasons for moving the opening day of school to after Labor Day."

Sturm mentioned various financial and social impacts that a post-Labor Day school opening would yield.

"The beauty of local control of school districts is that decisions can be made that reflect community values, needs and expectations," he said. "The Pocono Mountains is a tourism dependant region, and as such, requires seasonal assistance to support our business community. Many of your students and teachers provide that necessary labor force at the appropriate time of year. For some of these seasonal workers, these initial work experiences lead to fulfilling career opportunities."

Sturm told the board "we encourage you to take into consideration both the local economic and social conditions affecting our area, and support a post-Labor Day school opening in 2012, 2013 and 2014."

Also on Tuesday, the board heard from several high school students who expressed concerns with the building's inconsistent temperatures.

Senior Cody Eckhart began his comments with a question for Superintendent Carol Boyce in which he asked her if students in the middle school and high school come first.

Eckhart posed the question to Boyce in light of last month's bomb threat at the high school, a situation he said wasn't handled properly in his opinion.

Boyce declined to respond to Eckhart's questions, and said "I don't believe this is a question-and-answer session."

Board President Barry Scherer told Eckhart that based on his knowledge, he believed the bomb threat situation was handled in an appropriate manner.

Eckhart then shifted the conversation to the district's dress code; more specifically, hoodies.

"I have friends who have gotten in trouble for touching their hoodies," Eckhart said. "There are way too many discrepancies between what is supposed to and what isn't supposed to be worn."

Eckhart then suggested there may be less violations if the district invested in a cooling system for the high school.

Further, Eckhart said there are students who have bad allergies who "don't feel like sitting in class with tears in their eyes."

That comment angered Director Susan Debski, who told Eckhart she took exception to that remark because there are people in the world who fight to go to school and get an education.

"Shameful on you," Debski said.

High school senior Kalyn Lehr said that while she understood Debski's remark that there are kids that don't have a chance to get an education, it would help students in the high school if the temperatures were better regulated.

"I hear it all the time," Lehr said. "There is one classroom upstairs that is absolutely freezing; some classes get very cold in the morning."

Lehr then suggested the district look to install "some sort of heating system in there."

"I'm not saying it would fix that, but it would certainly help," she said. "Why not add that to the other schools; if it's provided for you, why not provide it for the students."

Scherer told Lehr he understood her concerns, and that while he didn't disagree with her, doing so would cost the district a "small fortune."

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