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Science education in the Apollo-Ridge School District is receiving a boost from the Alcoa Foundation.

The district accepted two $15,000 grants from Alcoa that are targeted for use in the elementary school.

Superintendent Matt Curci said one of the grants was received from the Pittsburgh-based aluminum manufacturer through the Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation.

He said that grant will be used for instruction in the pre-engineering and robotics curriculum as part of Project Lead The Way, a national science education initiative.

Curci said it isn’t necessarily for just upper elementary grades.

“It could be K through 5, to be honest with you,” he said.

He said Project Lead The Way efforts in Apollo-Ridge received a $15,000 grant at the end of last year from HDR, a Pittsburgh engineering firm. HDR is financing similar science instruction in the middle school this year.

The second grant accepted Monday was directly to the elementary school to fund the construction of a greenhouse, Curci said. He said that is an example of the kinds of science study in which the students and faculty are engaged.

“They have taken the ball and run with it,” Curci said. “There’s been a lot of cool ideas with the kids, a lot of hands-on stuff.”

For example, he said last year, second-graders raised baby trout that they released into Roaring Run.

Even determining where the greenhouse will be built was a science project last year. Curci said students studied areas behind the three elementary school wings to see which receives the most sunlight. They determined it is behind the wing that houses kindergarten and first grade, so that is where it will be built.

IN OTHER ACTION

• Students at Apollo-Ridge will be able to enroll in classes to earn college credits at Penn State New Kensington through an agreement between the university and the district the board ratified Monday.

Applicants for the dual enrollment program must have a 3.0 grade point average and must maintain a 2.0 average in their college courses. Apollo-Ridge students cannot take more than 24 credits per year or eight credits per semester under the agreement.

“It’s just another way to provide more opportunities to our students,” Curci said.

He said the district has a similar program with IUP and had the program with Penn State New Kensington in the past but it has been a few years since it was made available.

• The district approved agreements with Armstrong School District regarding special education services. Curci said Armstrong provides teachers for the special education classes held at Lenape Technical School and the district will pay a pro rata share for that cost based on the number of students. Also, the district agreed to pay the instruction fees of $60 per hour for audiology and speech services and $90 per hour for vision.

• The board approved the model memoranda of understanding between the district and the Kiski Township Police, Pennsylvania State Police and emergency services, which are mutually agreed upon policies and procedures governing how emergency situations are handled on school property. The memoranda come up for approval each year.

In addition, the board approved a mutual memorandum of aid with ten school districts and two vocational-technical schools in Armstrong and Indiana counties to assist in addressing the needs of students and school employees in the event of a large disaster or similar extraordinary event.

Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.