New Altoona Area High School science teacher Stephanie Bailey said her students will dissect a rat, a fetal pig and a shark this school year.
"Hopefully there's none of that," she said of a student possibly fainting.
Administrators dealing with nonpayment of a second state subsidy, however, might feel a bit dizzy themselves.
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Taylor Stoudnour, 11, of Hollidaysburg helps Altoona Area High School chemistry teacher Mike Steininger prepare student agendas Thursday that will be distributed on the first day of school Monday. Taylor accompanied her parents, Eric and Kelli Stoudnour, both teachers at the high school, to help prepare for the first day of classes.
August's state subsidy payment deadline came and went Thursday just like the deadline for the first payment in July, as the state budget stalemate has meant no state money flowing to school districts this summer.
Gov. Ed Rendell's six-year plan for schools puts poorer school districts on the same playing field as the wealthy, Altoona Area School District Superintendent Dennis Murray wrote in an e-mail.
"Because we are a poor school district, having missed a second subsidy payment creates jeopardy for all of our educational programs," he wrote. "It makes us very nervous about being able to meet payroll in the very near future."
The district's full-day kindergarten, tutoring programs, dual enrollment for students taking college classes and transportation are some of the programs that could be on the block if Senate Bill 850 goes through, Murray said.
Hollidaysburg Area School District doesn't rely as heavily on state aid, spokeswoman Linda Russo stated in an e-mail.
"But eventually, it's going to affect us all," she wrote. "Using our reserves in lieu of the state subsidy is costing our district approximately $4,000 a month in interest earnings."
Schools may end up turning to a tax and revenue anticipation note to make up for the lack of state funding, Russo wrote.
This week, Altoona did not receive a $5,813,712 payment and Hollidaysburg went without $1,750,474, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Payments other Blair County area school districts did not receive this week include: Bellwood-Antis, $1,057,144; Claysburg-Kimmel, $830,082; Spring Cove, $1,179,531; Tyrone, $1,416,937; and Williamsburg, $510,886.
The first skipped payment in July was: Altoona, $2,295,236; Hollidaysburg, $752,883; Bellwood-Antis, $325,223; Claysburg-Kimmel, $270,471; Spring Cove, $468,527; Tyrone, $527,793; and Williamsburg, $164,753.
Despite state budget fears, class must go on.
Bailey remembers getting ready as a child for her first day back to school each year - the new clothes and back pack, and, of course, a photo to record the memory.
The 24-year-old Ebensburg native is one of nearly three dozen new teachers heading to class Monday in Altoona, along with about 8,000 students.
"We are looking forward to a year where our students continue to excel in academics, athletics and the arts," spokesman Tom Bradley wrote in an e-mail.
An estimated 3,600 students and 12 new teachers in Hollidaysburg also will be reporting to school Monday.
"We will begin the new school year in a strong position, with many accomplishments to celebrate and several exciting new initiatives to look forward to," Russo wrote.
Those accomplishments include a state technology award, the Blair County Business Hall of Fame Award and a $500,000 grant for a geothermal heating and cooling system at the high school from the state's Department of Environmental Protection.
Tussey Mountain School District is the only area district to begin classes after Labor Day. School will start there Sept. 8.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Clegg is at 949-7030.