School district mulls attendance, health curriculum

HUGHESVILLE – Health and attendance were topics of discussion at the East Lycoming School Board meeting Tuesday evening.

Seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grade instructors will use a new health curriculum beginning next year. The program, developed by the University of Colorado, teaches life skills such as conflict resolution as well as methods for dealing with anxiety, anger and drugs and alcohol, according to Donna Gavitt, board member.

The program has a proven rate for decreasing drug, alcohol and tobacco use, Gavitt explained.

However, board member Richard Bradley was concerned about another aspect of student health – heavy backpacks. Recently, Bradley has been approached by numerous parents who are concerned that their children are carrying their heavy school books around with them throughout the day, rather than dropping books off at their lockers between class.

Bradley weighed one student’s backpack and found it to be about 25 pounds.

“I believe some of this is cultural. I’ve noticed it seems to be a big deal for the parents, and not such a big deal for the students,” Bradley said.

“I just want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to encourage the kids to stop at their lockers,” he added.

According to Bradley, some students don’t feel they have time to stop at their lockers before going home, because they’re afraid they will miss the bus.

Superintendent Richard Pawlick noted that there were teachers in every hallway of the schools at bus time, with walkie-talkies that put them into direct contact with bus drivers.

Thomas Coburn, Hughesville Junior High School principal, agreed.

“The buses don’t leave until the students are gone and we tell them to move out,” he said.

Over the last year, students across the district had a 94-percent attendance rate or better, according to Ronald Lorson, principal of Hughesville High School.

Board member Amy Rogers agreed that this was an excellent accomplishment but noted that teacher attendance in the middle and high schools was much lower.

“In the elementary school, I don’t think any of the teachers had under 95-percent attendance. But staff attendance could improve at the middle and high schools,” Rogers said.

“If we ask this of our kids, we need to ask this of our staff as well,” she added.