CHESTER, Pa., Sept. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Chester Upland School District students returned to class this week to schools with improved academic opportunities and budget measures in place that will aid in the district's financial recovery, Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said.
Chester Upland has spent several months exploring and implementing initiatives that will better serve students and the community. Some of the initiatives were highlighted on a recent tour of the district by Rivera, state Budget Secretary Randy Albright, and others.
"When I visited the district recently, and spoke with administrators and staff I was encouraged by the district's progress in establishing a positive climate for students, as well as the shared focus on improving opportunities for students to thrive," Rivera said. "The Department of Education will continue to monitor and work closely with Chester Upland's leaders, but I'm confident the 2016-17 school year has started on a positive note."
The district's overhauled and new programs aimed at helping students academically include:
- A new program for elementary special education students
- Implementation of an updated cyber program within Chester High School to allow students the option of enrolling in cyber education at a brick-and-mortar facility
- Additional guidance counselors at all levels to provide services to students
Many of the academic improvements are expected to draw students who had been attending charter or other schools back to district schools, reducing overall costs for the district, Rivera said. This includes Chester High School's cyber-learning options targeted at providing students with an opportunity to remain enrolled in and graduate with a diploma from the district while receiving instruction over the Internet or in a blended program – a mix of classes in a district school building and online courses.
"Chronic financial difficulties have plagued the district for more than 25 years. Collaborative efforts led by Governor Wolf working with the school district, the Department of Education, the General Assembly, and the charter community have enabled us to make major progress to address these financial challenges with lasting long-term solutions," Albright said.
Chester Upland leaders have begun to put the following measures in place to help the district save money and regain its financial stability:
- Enhancing central office staff by hiring a part-time grant writer, with experience working with distressed entities, to apply for public and private grants; and a part-time fundraising and community liaison.
- Instituting a change in the provider of the current prescription drug program.
- Amending school pick-up times and bus routes to gain transportation efficiencies and reduce costs.
- Procuring improved equipment to reduce labor costs and incorporating labor reduction methods within the workforce.
- Applying for an interest-free loan through the federal government's Qualified Zone Academy Bond Program to use on capital improvements, mainly for Chester High School.
- Executing thorough reviews of current expenses and revenues to determine where savings and efficiencies can be achieved.
- Implementing a deferred maintenance and capital improvement plan.
"With continued work by Chester Upland's leadership and educators, and with the support from the business community and residents, Chester Upland School District can continue to lay the groundwork for a solid financial footing and academic excellence," said Rivera.
Chester Upland School District is in financial recovery status under Act 141. Other Pennsylvania school districts in financial recovery include Duquesne, Harrisburg and York.
MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Reigelman, 717.783.9802
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education