CATAWISSA RR — The Southern Columbia School Board voted Monday night to maintain a comprehensive ninth through 12th-grade vocational program with the Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School following discussions about a potential building upgrade project that could range from $18 million to $33 million.

The board was tasked with choosing one of four proposed projects ahead of Tuesday night’s vo-tech meeting during which the project was further discussed.

Timothy Vought was in favor of changing Southern Columbia’s participation to 10th through 12th grade only in order to save money, stating it wasn’t feasible for the district to afford its share of any of the proposed projects.

Five of seven schools making up the vocational school must vote in favor of renovations in order for the project to move forward. Should that requirement be met, the district would have to pay its percentage of the total cost at about 11 percent.

Superintendent Paul Caputo provided estimates of what the district would pay per project based on tuition of ninth through 12th grade and said he didn’t have the exact numbers for if the program decreased beginning in 10th grade, but that the district’s cost would be lower.

President Mike Yeager agreed with Vought, stating the district would be unable to afford its share of the $18 million project, let alone one of the most expensive ones.

Mentioning an ever-changing job market currently in demand for the trades, Jim Rosenberger stated he believed the program needed to be provided for freshmen.

The board voted 7-2 to continue a ninth- through 12th-grade program, with the ninth-grade year providing students the opportunity to make their rounds through numerous programs to find which they prefer.

With concern over financing of the proposed projects, the board voted to choose the $18 million infrastructure repairs only project with the stipulation of John Yocum taking the idea to the vo-tech board of phasing it out over time rather than requiring full payment up front for the project to be completed in one phase.

Members of the public were vocally supportive of maintaining a ninth- through 12th-grade program, including a current student who spoke of how important her freshmen year was for her finding her place in the correct program and earning hours required for her license.

In other news

Caputo announced a parent initiative to create a proposed code of conduct and responsibility for parents. The final product can be presented to the board for endorsement.

On May 9, the school will host activities for Mental Health Awareness Day with the goal of battling the stigma surrounding mental illness, Caputo said. The district will promote mental health awareness, with students participating in wearing green and selling mental health awareness T-shirts.

General fund invoices in the amount of $1,898,879.77 and athletic fund invoices in the amount of $11,244.86 were approved unanimously. An athletic fund transfer of $50,000 was also unanimously approved by the board.

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