Bethlehem Press

Sunday, December 8, 2019
press photo by chris haring High school Principal Tamara Gary addresses the Board regarding the approval of a Virtual High School, Inc. contract. press photo by chris haring High school Principal Tamara Gary addresses the Board regarding the approval of a Virtual High School, Inc. contract.

Seniors lauded, vaping new concern

Monday, October 7, 2019 by Chris Haring Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Several students, as well as their families, were on hand to be recognized as Advanced Placement Scholars at the latest Saucon Valley School Board meeting. High school Principal Tamara Gary introduced seniors who had, during their junior year, successfully completed Advanced Placement classes, in addition to recognizing graduates who had successfully completed these courses as Seniors.

Grace Albano, Junior in Student Government, addressed the Board regarding recent events at the high school. She explained that the Panther Cafe, a student-run coffee shop within the high school, was reopening for the school year on Thursday mornings. She also informed the Board of a new student reporter program to be launched at the first Saucon Valley varsity football game, with herself, Megan Kane and Nick Bortz in partnership with D-11 Sports. She gave an update on the school’s marching band, who recently performed at the Penn State Blue Band Jam in State College and in Philadelphia at the fifth annual Phillies Band Night at Citizens Bank Park.

All motions unanimously passed, with only a few raising any discussion among the Board. One topic which merited elaboration was the approval of a contract with Virtual High School, Inc. for 10 student seats at the cost of $425 per student. Board member Sandra Miller explained that for some students, it is an essential option for students who might be looking for courses not offered by the school as per their current teacher contract or for students who are unable to physically attend school for a partial or full day. “If we could offer them some alternatives to help them stay as Saucon students, use our curriculum, use our in-house programs, that would save us substantial finances” in comparison to funding students attendance at charter school, she said. A few Board members expressed concern that if this program were advertised and gained popularity in enrollment among students and their families, it could become financially prohibitive. Gary explained that “it’s there for students who need it as an option, but it’s not advertised as ‘hey, this is something you can do’ because of the cost associated.” Board Vice President Dr. Shamim Pakzad questioned whether the district wanted to encourage students to take advantage of this program in place of physically attending classes at the school’s campus. Gary replied, “I think we always have to keep our avenues open for all different situations for students.”

Vaping remained a topic at this meeting as well, as Dr. Pakzad referred to continuing news stories about lung damage and hospitalizations of teens and young adults due to its use. He questioned if there were any plans by the schools to “do some public outreach… this sounds to me like we don’t want to wait (for) a news story being about one of our kids.” Board member Tracy Magnotta said that she was approached by a parent on that day in the school parking lot inquiring about additional educational opportunities for students, because kids “still don’t understand the negative effects of it.” Superintendent Dr. Craig Baxter affirmed the district’s commitment to look further into possible programs and other ways in which the schools can further stress the dangers involved in vaping to students.