Parents vent about safety during Franklin meeting

Concerned parents turned out at the Franklin Area School board meeting Monday night asking for increased awareness for student safety.

One parent addressed board members about a student-on-student sexual assault that she said occurred to her 11-year-old daughter at Central Elementary last school year.

The woman discussed a safety plan that had been implemented after the incident, but one, she said, that has not been adhered to since the start of the new school year.

She said two incidents occurred in which the male student who assaulted her daughter was able to make contact with the girl on Aug. 29 and Oct. 3.

“There are fundamental things that need to be addressed,” the woman said. “I want the school board to make policies and procedures to make the schools safe places.”

The woman also discussed an incident involving her second daughter. She said the girl got off a school bus in Cooperstown and ran into a wooded area.

The woman expressed discontent with how the school district handled the situation. She said neither the district’s director of transportation, Kevin Close, nor anyone from Lepley’s Bus Service was present when she arrived at the residence where her daughter was last seen before running into the woods.

“There are families like me feeling a level of distress for what’s happening with our children. There is a better way for schools to address this,” the woman said.

Another parent, Julie Myers, questioned where the school board’s best interests lay.

“Who is taking care of the children? What are you here for?” Myers asked board members.

Superintendent Pamela Dye and board President Brian Spaid later commented and said the board has dealt with the issues and would be further discussing it during an executive session after the meeting.

School security

Dye provided an update to the online visitor-identification system put in place at all four schools in the district.

The online visitor-management system allows every school to instantly screen visitors by using their photo ID and can screen against the national registered sex-offender database.

Dye said students were sent home with informative letters, and parents were notified they would need to produce photo ID if they require access to any of the schools outside of the main offices.

George Forster, principal of Sandycreek and Victory elementary schools, said the student ALICE training that took place at his schools earlier this month was well received.

Participating students attended security awareness assemblies, with groups split up by grade levels K-2, 3-4 and 5-6.

Other business

– Junior/senior high school Principal Christina Cohlhepp discussed with the board a possible reassessment of the format of graduation projects.

Starting this year, students are required to complete 30 hours of community service between their sophomore and junior years and participate in two job shadows.

Previously, students were allowed to choose from a much broader range of projects.

Cohlhepp said she and the board will need to decide which format is most conducive for students or whether the school should even require graduation projects.

– Dye said she may seek approval next week to hire a retired teacher to substitute at Sandycreek Elementary for three weeks.

The superintendent said the school district is in “dire need” of substitute teachers, which reflects a larger trend seen across the state.

Board members would be asked to approve the retired teacher to substitute at a rate of $125 per day, in comparison with the $100-a-day rate for regular substitutes.

– Board member Marcia Patton and buildings and grounds director Leon Billingsley discussed needed future updates to the sound system at the football stadium and the district’s door access system for teachers and administration.

– Dye said the 2019-20 budget is in the preliminary process to be completed by December.

– The street address for new administrative offices at the junior/senior high school will be 40 Knight Way, Franklin, Pa., 16323.

– Junior Alexis Bliss will join the school board as a student member starting Monday.

Franklin Area School board will next meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the Central Elementary cafeteria.