Bethel Park school board and its teachers are continuing fact-finding and mediation in the latest attempt to arrive at a new contract.
At Tuesday's school board meeting, district officials discussed a timetable for the ongoing fact-finding process with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
Representatives of the district and the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers were scheduled for a mediation session Wednesday, according to Superintendent Nancy Aloi Rose. The parties met twice with the fact-finder in the past week and a half, she said.
A nonbinding recommendation is expected Oct. 2. At that point, each side has 10 days to accept or reject the fact-finder's report.
"Typically, I will tell you, it takes the whole 10 days," said district solicitor Michael Brungo. "It does take time to do the analysis."
If the district or union rejects the recommendation, the contents will be publicized. Both parties then have up to 10 days to reconsider.
Should both sides accept the recommendation, it becomes the basis for a new contract.
The school district requested fact-finding Aug. 21 under provisions of state Act 88, which allows either party in a contract impasse to request the process at any time.
The federation filed for fact-finding in March 2012, but both parties turned down the recommendation two months later.
Teachers have been working under terms of an agreement that expired June 30, 2010. They staged a six-week work stoppage later that year but have remained on the job since.
In other matters Tuesday:
• Two Bethel Park administrators discussed the district's award of a $176,550 state grant for an early childhood education initiative.
Dee Stark, director of elementary education, and Lori Sutton, director of special education, told the board that the Pre-K Counts program has been implemented with the start of the new school year at Tender Care Learning Center on Library Road.
The program, which covers enrollment costs for 15 full-time and 15 part-time students at the preschool, entailed an application process among families with incomes at up to 300 percent of poverty level, said Ms. Stark. The grant is renewable for up to five years if the district and learning center complete certain requirements.
Ms. Sutton said the program provides opportunities to identify developmental issues at an earlier age and to plan for transitions of children between preschool and public school.
"We'll have some more information about students coming into our kindergarten classrooms," she explained.
Of the 30 students enrolled in the program, 26 are Bethel Park residents, and two each are from South Park Township and Pittsburgh. Ms. Stark explained that under the terms of the grant, applicants could not be turned down because of residency.
• The school board approved nearly $85,000 in change orders for renovations at Neil Armstrong Middle School, where climate-control mechanical systems are getting a $6 million overhaul.
Money left over from high school construction is financing the project. Matthew Howard, assistant to the superintendent for finance and operations, said the budget includes a $400,000 contingency for change orders.
Board member Jim Means said many of the items that resulted in the extra costs at the middle school were discovered during the work and are safety-related.
Harry Funk, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.