Saturday school an option for truants

September 11, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County students who play hooky from school during the week may find themselves attending on the weekend.

The concept of Saturday school is becoming widespread among school districts as a way of dealing with truants.

"Students attend Saturday school in proportion to how much they've missed. Some spend from as little as a half-hour to several hours," said Mark Herman, assistant principal at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

In its fourth year, Saturday detention is one of the first steps in dealing with students who are habitually late to school or who are truant, Herman said.


Students assigned to school on Saturday are required to catch up on school work, complete writing assignments, and are instructed on topics such as goal-setting and overcoming obstacles, said Herman, the Saturday school instructor for the district.

Waynesboro, Fannett-Metal and Tuscarora school districts also have some form of Saturday sessions.

At James Buchanan Middle School in Mercersburg, Pa., truants may find themselves attending school from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays to make up the work they've missed if other forms of remediation don't work, said Gary Porter, assistant principal.

"Many times, once we get the parents involved, the problem solves itself," Porter said, adding that truancy isn't as much of a problem at the middle school level.

At James Buchanan High School, a new program is being tried out this year for students who are truant, have discipline problems or get bad grades.

Called the Hope classroom, students with one or a combination of those problems are assigned to the alternative education classroom, which has a counselor, teacher and a part-time aid.

"In order for students to be successful in school, they have to be here. But they also can't disrupt the others," said Bill Pupo, assistant principal at the high school.

The counseling component of the alternative class and the small student-teacher ratio often is more appealing to students than the regular classroom setting, Pupo said.

The students follow the same curriculum and are evaluated every 30 days. Though the goal of the class is to get the students back into the mainstream, they can also choose to stay there indefinitely, Pupo said.

"Some kids like it. It's not as big and they can learn a lot better. Not all students do well in a big setting," he said.

Most school districts have truancy officers and work with the district justices in setting up community service if it comes to that.

The Tuscarora School District works closely with the Mercersburg Borough and the police department, which provides community service projects.

Washington Township also provides work opportunities for Waynesboro students at its refuse transfer station and recycling center.

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