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New Lehighton elementary ironing out issues

Published September 19. 2018 11:18AM

Opening the new Lehighton Area Elementary Center hasn’t been without its hiccups, but administrators in the district are confident students, staff and parents are settling into a routine.

Tuesday marked two weeks since the first day of school, and Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said everyone involved with the transition has showed great patience as a more consistent schedule falls into place.

“Everyone is to credit, from the students and parents to the bus company and the teachers and staff here within the district,” Cleaver said. “It takes a real team effort and we worked through some things in the opening days to get to a point where we’re starting to settle in.”

Director Joy Beers said Monday she heard “rumblings” on social media that students didn’t have enough time to eat lunch.

Some of that, Cleaver and K-2 Principal Aaron Sebelin said, can be attributed to a condensed schedule in the first week or two of school.

“The first couple of days there are a lot of activities such as assemblies and bus evacuation drills that take place so it’s not your normal schedule,” Cleaver said.

“After a few days students also start to memorize their account numbers that are used to purchase lunch in the cafeteria. That slows down the line in the first few days because the cafeteria staff has to physically look up the numbers, especially for our kindergarten students.”

Lunch schedules are staggered and a different class usually comes to the cafeteria every 5-10 minutes from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. so as to not jam up the line at one time.

Sebelin said the staff has started going over lunch choices with students in the classroom before they get to the cafeteria so they already know what they will be choosing.

“The lunch periods are 30 minutes, and by the time students who are buying lunch get to their tables, they have 20 minutes left,” Business Manager Brian Feick said.

“Lunch aides won’t let them leave, however, if they have not finished eating.”

One of the biggest challenges, Sebelin said, is getting students to eat instead of socialize during lunch.

“We’ve encouraged them to sit down and start eating and not as much talking,” he said. “It’s getting better.”

Sebelin added that every student has a seat in the cafeteria, addressing another rumor that surfaced during Monday’s meeting.

One of the biggest kinks early in the school year is transportation.

“One of the things we changed up is we now have students seated in the cafeteria by buses K-2 at the end of the day,” Sebelin said.

“Since last Wednesday, we haven’t had anyone get on the wrong bus, and that did happen during the first week, so it was an adjustment we made. On Monday, the last bus left at 3:32 p.m., so it’s been getting much, much better.”

A parent who lives on Mahoning Drive West told the board that it takes her daughter 50 minutes to get home on the bus at the end of the day.

“From the outset of this elementary center process, we did make it clear that the students who had a longer ride in the morning would have a shorter ride in the afternoon, and vice versa,” Cleaver said.

The board voted to have a future workshop to address transportation.

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