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New Pa. law allows ‘flexible instruction’ on snow days

ATHENS — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently signed a bill into law that will allow school districts to turn snow days into school days by delivering lesson plans to students at home.

The three-year pilot program will let school districts opt in to what the state calls “flexible instruction days.” Under the new law, students must get and complete lessons at home so that the day will count toward the 180 days of instruction currently required annually.

The law caps a school’s flexible instruction days at five per school year.

The biggest obstacle for most schools will be students without reliable internet access at home. Athens Superintendent Craig Stage said the school district will look into the feasibility of the program over the next two months.

“It makes it challenging. It takes a little bit of work to do, so we’ll probably pull the teams together over the next couple months and see if we can actually accomplish that. We will probably look to have that figured out by the fall,” Stage said.

According to Stage, the state tried this a few years ago, but at that time Athens didn’t have one-to-one (every student having a piece of technology) and the district didn’t apply for the program.

“We’ve been hearing about it and they tried the pilot a couple years ago. You had to have one-to-one (and) you had to have guaranteed internet access for a certain percentage of all your students at home. So we didn’t apply a couple years ago, but we did look into it,” Stage said.

The new law says a school district that wants to participate must show the Department of Education how it will record attendance, institute the program and accommodate students who lack the right technology at home — such as internet access.

“We will probably break out our old plan because we kind of put something together and see how it fits to Governor Wolf’s new ideas with flexible instruction days,” Stage said.

Stage understands the push for the flexible instruction days but notes that students getting to interact with teachers is obviously the best thing for kids in every school district.

“It’s not a bad thing with the unpredictable weather we’ve had the last few years and having to push those days out. It would be great to have snow days be useful days of instruction,” said Stage. “I think the challenge is to make sure that those days are still valuable. Nothing beats having face-to-face time with your teacher. I think that’s the challenge that we have to internally discuss.”

One thing that could allow Athens to opt in to the program this time around is that the district is now one-to-one compliant.

“In our district, every student has access to a piece of technology. We are one-to-one, but we just don’t allow them to take them home and we’re actually rethinking that right now. If that changes, that would make this whole flexible instruction day much more feasible for us as a district,” said Stage.

Johnny Williams/Morning Times  

The summer heat could not stop local veterans and the residents of Elderwood at Waverly from having a great time during the senior care center’s summer picnic Friday, which featured a performance by local band Double Take. The performance was sponsored by the Sayre American Legion Post 246.

Second individual charged in Walmart meth incident

ATHENS TOWNSHIP — A second individual is facing drug charges in connection with an incident that occurred at the Elmira Street Walmart parking lot back in May.

Billy Eugene Parsons, 29, of Towanda was charged with felony-grade possession with intent to deliver controlled substances and misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia for his role in the incident, which took place shortly before 5:30 p.m. on May 28.

According to Athens Township Police, the incident began when officers responded to a report from an off-duty officer of an unidentified woman smoking methamphetamine in the parking lot of Walmart.

The off-duty officer also noted that Nicole Lynn Brennan, who was also charged in this incident, was observed in the back seat of the vehicle.

After contacting Bradford County Dispatch, the off-duty officer observed Parsons enter the vehicle.

The off-duty officer then relayed to dispatch that he believed he had been recognized, as the vehicle “quickly backed out of the parking spot” and eventually left the property.

Officers of the Sayre Police Department, who were first to respond to the scene, then performed a traffic stop on the aforementioned vehicle in the Tractor Supply parking lot, police said.

Upon approaching the vehicle, officers observed Brennan slumped over typing on her cell phone and Parsons reaching throughout the passenger area, and eventually requested that all three individuals come out of the vehicle.

After observing a backpack on the front passenger floor of the vehicle, officers asked if it belonged to Parsons, and he stated that it did. Parsons also informed police that the backpack contained methamphetamine.

Some of the items discovered in the backpack were two weighing scales, several clear, small plastic baggies and approximately 10.5 grams of methamphetamine.

Parsons was arraigned and placed in the Bradford County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail. A preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Court Judge Larry Hurley is scheduled for July 16.