Curriculum additions, class times changes, computer lab improvements, introductions to new administrators and dress codes greeted students who returned to West classrooms this week for the start of the 2013-14 school year.
For some, summer vacation will continue for a few more days.
Here's a back-to-school roundup of school news, changes and events affecting many West students as they begin the new year:
Classes started Wednesday with a senior class tailgate back-to-school party on the lawn near the Cougar statue. The yearly tradition was expanded this year to include faculty. The day began at 6:45 a.m. with coffee, juice, doughnuts and pancakes, along with tailgating activities.
The Crafton Elementary Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math studio has been selected as one of five sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia for the Mobile Makeshop in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.
Artists and designers will bring resources to the studio once a week to provide hands-on projects for students in electronics, woodworking, sewing and digital media.
An autistic support classroom has been added to Carnegie Elementary School, enabling children to attend a home school instead of having to go to a special education school.
All three district buildings are currently being converted to electronic entry systems with new hardware and doors. Additional wireless access points will be installed in all three district facilities.
The dress and grooming code has been updated. It bans visible undergarments, requires shorts and skirts to be longer than fingertip length, prohibits baggy shorts, pants or clothing with holes or clothing that is in disrepair. The code also prohibits clothing with offensive or threatening words, that displays offensive gestures or symbols, or promotes illegal activities
The tennis court on the high school grounds has been removed and the area is being seeded for use as an athletic practice field. A new six-lane track is almost complete and will include newly excavated and finished areas for the long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin.
Michael Loughren was hired as junior-senior high school principal at a salary of $100,000. He was assistant high school principal in the Plum Borough School District. He had served as a social studies teacher in Moon and Fox Chapel.
Laura Burns, Carlynton's assistant principal at the high school, has resigned. She is taking an assistant principal position at Pine-Richland Senior High School. -- Kim Lawrence
Classes started last Thursday for approximately 3,400 students in Bridgeville, Collier, Heidelberg and Scott.
Superintendent Brian White said the district received a state grant that will outfit all four school buildings with software requiring all visitors to present and swipe a driver's license, which will be checked against a database. Visitors then will be issued a temporary visitor ID card with a photo. Each school will provide more specific details with parents because the visitor process differs among buildings.
Also, the guard booth at the high school/middle school will no longer have a campus safety staff member in it; instead, there will be a gate that will be monitored and operated remotely by campus safety personnel.
Students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 will participate in the 2013-14 school year Pennsylvania Youth Survey that will be provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Drug and Alcohol Program and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. It will assess student behaviors and knowledge about alcohol, tobacco, drugs, violence and other problem behaviors. Parents will receive more information about this program, including an opt-out form.
After much study and parental input, the district has decided to switch to the Infinite Campus student information system. The change will most likely occur between the first and second semesters.
Among the staff changes are:
• Julie Hopp, promoted from primary school assistant principal to principal.
• Stephanie Faith, new primary school assistant principal. She formerly was principal of an elementary school in Ambridge and has experience working with gifted and special education students.
• Ron Yasher, coordinator of administrative services. He will oversee campus safety and school resource persons, as well as coordinate the district's Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and coordinate new state regulations for athletic booster organizations.
The district has assigned curriculum leaders, who will work extra days to both teach and address curriculum needs: Shelly Burr, intermediate school mathematics; Jennifer Carfano, intermediate school English language arts; Kelly Natale, English language arts at the primary school; Maria Krzeczowski, high school math; Lisa Trainor, high school English language arts; Sean Biancaniello, middle school math; Jill Crivelli, middle school English language arts; Shelia Shoats, primary school math; and Mike Leonard, district instructional technology and information technology teacher at the middle school.
New staff members include Leah O'Malley, high school guidance counselor; Justin Leidy, intermediate school regular education teacher; Ashley Andrew, primary school nurse; Samantha Fischer, middle/high school librarian; Bonnie Simpson, intermediate school speech and language teacher; Amanda Trainor, intermediate school English as a second language instructor; and Jessica Tulowitzki, Valerie Lutz and Darla Kurnel, special education teachers at the intermediate school.
The district will schedule a series of community meetings this school year to review the state of its facilities, discuss architects' recommendations and solicit community input. The district's ultimate goal is to develop a long-term facility plan. -- Carole Gilbert Brown
Enrollment for the first full day of classes Tuesday was 636 -- three fewer than last year.
Robert Motte is the new high school principal. He had been the assistant principal at Fort Cherry.
The elementary school is getting a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math grant to purchase technology equipment so that students can digitally create, record and present their stories. Students in grades 4-6 will build the stories and students in K-3 will view the stories. New computers were purchased for the project along with a 70-inch TV, speakers and microphones.
The high school received a Sprout Fund grant that will go toward special programs. -- Linda Wilson Fuoco
Classes resumed Tuesday with 2,806 students from Ingram, Kennedy, Pennsbury Village, Robinson and Thornburg.
Lunch prices remained $2.50 in the elementary schools and $2.75 in the middle and high schools, but prices on a la carte food items rose by 10 percent in all the schools.
Head high school football coach Lou Cerro has been named athletic director to replace Mitch Galiyas, who retired.
Other new administrators are transportation director Bob Wagner, special education supervisor Sielke Caparelli and business manager Anna Borsos, who previously was the finance director of South Side Area School District in Beaver County.
Email accounts have been created for students in grades 5 to 12. Students and teachers will be able to communicate and share work using Google Apps for Education. The accounts are to be used for academic purposes only and will comply with safety and privacy measures. Parent/guardian approval is required.
Students at Burkett Elementary School in Robinson have access to a new classroom that facilitates creative, hands-on learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art and math, thanks to a $20,000 STEAM grant from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Center for Creativity.
The classroom is equipped with items such as Apple iPads, Lego engineering materials and Carnegie Mellon University robotic origami units.
A $140,000 electronic sign is being constructed at the high school entrance on Clever Road.
Land preparation has begun for a second driveway to the high school campus, which includes the renovated athletic center and the future site of a planned new elementary school.
Math students -- from kindergartners to students taking algebra -- have new math courses and textbooks.
Middle school grades 5 to 8 will be offered new nutrition and wellness classes and a series of courses, called Gateway to Technology, that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.
A biology course aligned with Keystone Exam standards will be offered in grades 8 to 10.
The high school added Advanced Placement Psychology, as well as a junior-level Medical Interventions class as part of the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences Program.
The former Ingram Elementary School continues to serve as a resource center for all district students and for the Ingram community. Facilities and services include a library, computers, tutoring and special programs. Hours are 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Information: www.montourschools.com. -- Andrea Iglar
The 6-year-old K-8 charter school in Kennedy started classes Aug. 19 with 415 students and a waiting list.
Students begin their day at 8 a.m., 15 minutes later than last year.
The school has a new assistant principal, Jamie Chlystek. She transferred from Propel McKeesport.
New food provider Preferred Meals will offer healthier lunch and breakfast choices.
Later in the year, a National Elementary Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society will be formed to promote academic excellence.
A new visitor tracking system is in place using software that will require parents, contractors and volunteers to provide a driver's license or state-issued identification card at the front office.
The security system screens for various people who could jeopardize student safety, such as registered sex offenders, parents with restraining orders or custody issues, and students who are suspended. -- Andrea Iglareducation - neigh_west