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Pottsville News

Pine Grove Area Schools Fail Fire Drill Test, Auditor General Finds

Pine Grove Area school officials got into a bit of trouble with the state recently for not holding enough fire drills.

That’s one of the findings from a recent State Auditor General’s report on violations at the school district.

The Auditor General’s report found Pine Grove Area:

  • Received more than $25,000 in overpayments to the state over a 4-year period related to transportation costs
  • Failed to conduct more than half the required fire drills in the 2016-17 school year

Overall, the performance audit at Pine Grove Area found very few state compliance problems. The audit is really a way for the state to find out if school districts are complying with its confusing labyrinth of red tape.

While the school did generally get a clean bill of health overall, there were two issues.

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Pine Grove Fails Fire Drill Test

One highlight of the Auditor General’s report finds Pine Grove Area failed to conduct more than half its required fire drills in a school year. According to the report, that was the 2016-17 school term. In it, Pine Grove conducted just 13 of the required 27 fire drills mandated through the year at its district buildings.

The state requires schools to conduct a drill per month per building during the academic year. That’s 9×3 at Pine Grove.

The school’s response: during an administration change, the school’s new Superintendent, Heath Renninger, prioritized some things over others. And fire drills was apparently not atop the list.

The report reads: “While the district scheduled monthly fire drills, it ultimately cancelled several of its scheduled fire drill dates for unplanned reasons, such as weather condition or to conduct required bus evacuation drills. The District’s Superintendent explained that he was new to the position and that in trying to prioritize the many business and budgetary functions, rescheduling the fire drills was overlooked.”

Pine Grove now reportedly conducts the required fire drills. The school appointed a “School Safety and Security Coordinator” to make sure these drills are carried out. The responsibility for scheduling and conducting these drills falls on the schools’ principals.

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Transportation Overpayment

The Auditor General’s report also found the state overpaid Pine Grove for services between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2017. The overpayments equaled $25,410 over that 4-year period.

How did this happen? The report finds Pine Grove’s record-keeping led to the overpayments. Well, make that its lack of record keeping.

Schools are required to calculate the number of students it must transport. It gets a subsidy from the state for those costs. The state just requires those numbers be accurate. And in 2016-17, when the school reported that 0 students were not eligible for that transportation subsidy, it raised a big red flag. That figure was way off the previous years.

When auditors asked for document proof of the numbers it showed the state, Pine Grove could not provide it.

The report — in addition to promising to get its overpayment money back from Pine Grove — also recommends the school implement procedures and checks to ensure these reports are accurate in the future.

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