Elk Lake School Board approved the final budget for the 2021-22 school year in the amount of $23.58 million.
That is $1,564,602 more than last year’s budget, and Superintendent Ken Cuomo had announced in May there would be a budget shortfall of $686,986.
The millage rates for both counties that encompass the district will rise. The millage rate for Wyoming County residents will be 62.23, which is an increase of 2.04 mills. The rate for Susquehanna County residents will be 49.76, which is an increase of 2.01 mills.
Cuomo said the reason for the rise is items such as extra cleaning supplies and technology items needing to be purchased. The budget also had a $217,000 increase in special education costs and a $208,000 increase in vocational education costs.
Board members Harold Bender and Arden Tewksbury both said they were not happy with the tax increases, but voted yes to the budget to show signs of a unified board.
“I was thinking long and hard about voting no,” Tewksbury said. “But I will not be the one who holds back the progress that this school district has made over the last many years.”
The board also granted permission to close a cafeteria CD savings account and transfer $32,700 to the cafeteria account.
Cuomo also presented a first draft of the district’s 2021-22 health and safety plan. He said that the plan will comply with all Department of Health and Department of Education guidelines. Currently under those guidelines, masks will not be required in buildings during the upcoming school year.
“We are going to strictly follow whatever guidelines are in place at the time,” Cuomo said. “As we saw during the past school year, those guidelines can change very quickly and by the day. Our number one priority is keeping all kids healthy and safe.”
The health and safety plan is currently available for viewing on the district’s website, www.elklakeschool.org. Final approval of the plan will be voted on during the July board meeting.
Cuomo also announced that the district is applying for a $34,000 Keystone Communities Grant Resolution to offset costs for the stream restoration and walking trail project on the school’s campus. He said that the district has already received a $95,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and that this extra money “will greatly help with the project.”
In other business, the board approved:
The Elk Lake School Board will next meet on Wednesday, July 14, at 7 p.m., at Elk Lake High School.
If there were any jitters about whether people would be out for Founders Day in downtown Tunkhannock, Nancy Parlo said they disappeared in the first half hour.
After being canceled in 2020 due to COVID, the Tunkhannock Business and Professional Association President said the sponsoring agency pulled out the stops for a street fair, the weather cooperated, and people thankfully returned.
Chippy White Table, a downtown store on Tioga Street where owner Julie Piazza helps interested parties create memorable events, had the perfect event in a wedding for what is believed to be a Founders Day first.
It definitely made one one couple’s day bright as Jessica Stevens of South Abington Township and Richard Bullock of Saylorsburg tied the knot amidst the annual street fair activity featuring art and regional food vendors, along with live musical performances, and a classic car show on a hot, summer day.
Parlo said the return of the Founders Day summer tradition could not have been more smooth.
“I have to give a hats off to all of the amazing volunteers,” she said. “And, the vendors also were quite eager to get it started back.”
Some 130 vendors came to Tunkhannock for the event.
Parlo said TBPA had planned for 100 vendors, but the list kept growing as COVID restrictions started loosening, and more and more businesses kept asking if they could be a part of the event.
“We actually had a lot of new vendors this year,” Parlo said. “There was a nice variety and something for everyone. Extra planning went into the event this year because of the pandemic, and I think everything has worked out well.”
As people walked the street listening to music, sampling lots of vendor choices, Parlo said the crowd was just as big compared to recent years.
Renee Shoemaker of Laceyville, was enjoying the day with her son Zack. She started by participating in a scavenger hunt at Gay’s True Value before making her way up East Tioga Street.
“I always love taking part in all of the activities of the day,” she said. “Everyone who comes to Founders Day always has a lot of fun. I’m so glad we’re able to have events like this again.”
Peter and Holly Lewis of Tunkhannock, have made Founders Day a yearly tradition on their summer calendar. Although they thoroughly enjoy all of the activities the day has to offer, there is one thing they enjoy about the day the most.
“The people,” Peter said. “Everyone always has a big smile on their face and this year they are excited to be outside. Tunkhannock is a nice little community and I’m glad lots of people come out.”
After enduring 15 months with stay-at-home orders and restrictions on businesses and gatherings, and canceled events, Parlo said that having all of the people was “a joy to see.”
“People are so anxious to be able to get back out,” Parlo said. “Most of the event is outdoors, so anyone who might not be comfortable yet was still able to social distance. People are just grateful events are happening again and so is TBPA.”
“For 2022, we’re hoping to get back to our usual total of around 150 vendors,” Parlo said. “We want to keep being able to grow this event because the community loves the camaraderie.”
One might notice a beautiful smell bursting from Mountain Sprigs Farm in Tunkhannock Township. That aroma is lavender.
Barbara Mislevy started planting lavender in 2017. She started out by planting 100 plants and got a great crop of the plant. She points out that lavender is not an easy plant to grow, so she was ecstatic.
“Because of the great crop, I went out and ordered 300 more plants to plant for the next year,” Mislevy said. “Let’s just say that the luck wasn’t the greatest the second year of the plants.”
Lavender does not bloom to its full potential if there is too much precipitation over the course of a couple months. The cold and wet winter and spring of 2018-19 caused only 20 of the 400 plants to fully bloom.
This past growing season has been the complete opposite however, most of the rows of lavender plants are in full bloom. Mislevy said that she has not lost any of the plants this year.
“Hot and dry is the perfect lavender growing weather,” Mislevy said. “We’ve had the past almost two months now, and we only had a couple of big snow storms in the winter. We’ve also put gravel in the holes to prop the plants up a little, which is a technique that we just learned this year.”
Because of the good growing season, Mountain Sprigs Farm is going to hold an open house over the course of two weekends in July, where people will be able to come and pick their own lavender.
The event will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 3-4 and July 10-11 from 1 to 7 p.m. on both days. Along with being able to pick lavender, chairs will be scattered all around the property so guests can sit and enjoy the views of the Endless Mountains region.
There will also be activities throughout the days. Guests will be able to make their own sachet bags that will leave a strong lavender scent wherever it is left behind. Mislevy said that lavender is also becoming a very popular culinary item.
“We are going to have some lavender cookies and lavender lemonade out for people to sample,” Mislevy said. “A lot of people don’t think of lavender as something used in food, but it really is.”
During the open house, violinist Alison Edwards will be on the property playing her music to provide an even more relaxed atmosphere for the attendees. Donna LaBar will also be presenting a session on July 11, on how to deal with stress and anxiety during uncertain times.
“It will be the perfect setting for a session like that,” Mislevy said. “The beautiful views, smell of the lavender will for sure leave people in a relaxed mood and good state of mind.”
Depending on turnout and harvest, Mislevy is hoping to make this an annual event moving forward and to continue to showcase her lavender.
“This is a beautiful property,” Mislevy said. “I’m hoping people will come out to see it and pick some lavender, because it truly is a beautiful plant.”
Mountain Sprigs Farm is located at 205 Stark Road, in Tunkhannock Township. For more information on the lavender open house call 570-851-9290 or follow Mountain Sprigs Farm on Facebook.
The Tunkhannock Area School Board approved a new science curriculum for grades 5-8 in an otherwise routine and quick meeting last Thursday.
Board member Holly Arnold, who serves on the curriculum committee, noted that the science curriculum for the middle grades had not been updated since 2014, so the changes were overdue.
All five board members present also gave a thumbs up to approving the disposal of outdated textbooks and materials in all subject areas.
With four members absent (William Prebola, Rob Parry, William Swilley and John Burke), the board approved a 2021 homestead and farmstead exclusion which is usually done in tandem with a new budget.
But the item was not discussed when the nearly full board voted June 10 to up school property taxes by two mills.
The exclusion allows for a discounted assessment for the 4,728 homesteads and 41 farmsteads within the school district’s boundaries.
There was no discussion about either the exclusion or the tax increase which caught many in the community by surprise.
A member of the public did address Superintendent Heather McPherson regarding a need for some remedial assistance for her eighth grade child who passed, but the mom felt did not have a solid grounding in some of the subject matter.
McPherson said she would speak to the mother again early the following week and try to work out a program that would address the child’s perceived need.
McPherson did speak to some middle grades summer enrichment programs, including a trip to the aquarium in Scranton for a couple of groups, and an older group had been to Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y. McPherson noted that this week the students would be spending some time outdoors at the Howland Preserve in Washington Township.
In other business, the school board:
The school board next meets on Thursday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium for a combined work session/board meeting.
The Lackawanna Trail School Board approved its final budget for 2021-22 in the amount of a $21.4 million budget, which includes tax increases of 2.27 percent for Lackawanna County residents and .01 percent for Wyoming County residents.
The millage rate for Lackawanna County tax holders will rise from 170.88 to 174.76. The millage rate for Wyoming County will rise from 91.68 to 91.69.
Business Manager Keith Glynn said that these numbers have not been changed since the budget was presented in May, and that the increases are necessary because of all infrastructure and tech projects that have been going on in the district.
“Everything in this budget is necessary for the education of our kids,” Glynn said. “No one likes raising taxes, but the last year has forced us to make some necessary upgrades that we couldn’t ignore.”
On Monday, superintendent Matt Rakauskas also presented a first draft of the district’s 2021-22 health and safety plan during a virtual school board meeting.
“Next year’s plan is much smaller and a lot more direct than this past year’s plan as we are heading in the right direction,” Rakauskas said. “The main goal of this plan is to continue to keep students and staff safe, and we think we did that last year.”
An important point of the plan was that a fully virtual option will still be offered for students. If students choose the fully virtual option, they will have to remain virtual for at least a 45-day period. Rakauskas said that part of the reason is that he doesn’t want students taking advantage of the virtual option to do things like stay home and take tests. He is hoping to have at least 90 percent of students in-person in the fall.
The district will follow Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance when it comes to mask wearing and social distancing. As of right now, masks will not be required in the fall, but Trail will continue to monitor the spread of the virus.
“We will continue to keep an eye on factors such as positive cases and transmission rates,” Rakauskas said. “Cleaning levels will continue to be maintained and contact tracing will still be conducted if there is a positive case in one of our buildings.”
COVID-19 vaccinations will not be required for students or staff, but are encouraged. Fully vaccinated close contacts who are showing no symptoms will not have to quarantine.
A virtual town hall meeting for parents and students to address the health and safety plan will be held in July. The plan will be voted on at the August board meeting.
High School principal Mark Murphy announced that the high school will officially go back to a nine-period traditional schedule in the fall. The school had run block scheduling this past school year to create less movement between classrooms and maintain social distancing.
In other business, the board approved:
A scheduled July 26 board meeting has been canceled. The board will next meet for a work session on Monday, Aug. 2, at 7:30 p.m. The Zoom link will be posted on the district’s website, www.ltsd.org.