New programs, grants expand Perry Central's curriculum

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By Janet Robb

LEOPOLD - With one week down, several more to go, Perry Central Community Schools Superintendent Mary Roberson said everything has gone really well.

"We really feel like we're into the new year with a great start," she said, adding the new teachers have "jumped right in" and are getting involved in anything they can. Teacher day, Roberson said, seemed to get everyone really excited about school with a more interactive and fun day with skits and games. "We have a lot of good things that are going to be going on this year," the superintendent said.

The teachers have really come in and got everything ready to go, Principal Ray James said, adding that everything has been going as smooth as possible. One of the big things he said the staff will be working on is standardized testing since they have to test this fall and spring.

High-school students will also have two more advanced placement classes to choose from, including calculus and chemistry. "We're building on what we're already doing," Roberson said.

Enrollment numbers are steady, she said, adding that compared to last year's count day and the first day of school, it only looks like enrollment is down just a little bit. In 2007-08, there were 1,166 students at Perry Central.

While students and staff were well prepared to start the 2008-09 school year, Roberson said the biggest change was reducing bus routes from 20 to 18. There were a few minimal issues but she said she appreciates the hard work the transportation department did to make sure it went as smooth as possible. Bus drivers checked out the new routes before school started because some students were placed on different buses than what they were used to.

Other changes for the new year includes random drug testing for students who participate in an interscholastic athletic program, extra curricular program or who drives to school.

As The News reported earlier, the school corporation will pay for the testing, which includes urinalysis tests, saliva screening or breathalyzer analysis.

Tests would be random, not become part of students' permanent records and if the test results are disputed, parents can pay for a second test on the same samples. If a student tests positive, they would be removed from extracurricular programs, sports and not allowed to drive to school.

The school will help combat alcohol consumption by students with a $586,607 alcohol-abuse-prevention grant that was awarded to Perry Central this summer.

The grant allowed the school to hire Rob Moskos, who will serve as a social worker under the grant.

Students will participate in several programs aimed to educate them on alcohol-related problems and the social, community and legal consequences of underage drinking,

Another grant awarded to the school recently will boost the school's music program. James said the VH1 Save the Music Foundation awarded the school $30,000 worth of new instruments. According to www.vh1.com/partners /save_the_music, the foundation "works directly to support only music education programs and does not provide any money to the school or school district ... It is our believe that by providing instruments and not funding, our contributions will be used for its intended purpose: the restoration of public school music programs."

James said he's really excited about this program, especially since the school was able to hire James Powell as elementary music teacher.