Wyalusing Area School District voted unanimously Monday to allow a team of Penn State University researchers to conduct interviews with students and staff about Marcellus Shale development.

The team, consisting of Dr. Kai Schafft and graduate student Catherine Biddle, will be gathering information for a Center for Rural Pennsylvania project. The project's goal is to generate policy-relevant research on issues of importance to rural Pennsylvania that will then be funneled back to legislators and policy makers.

The proposal, which was made to Superintendent Dr. Chester Mummau, stated that at present time, "...it's hard to imagine an issue that has a larger profile for rural Pennsylvania than Marcellus Shale development...."

The project will be looking not only at the impacts of the gas industry on education and youth, but also government, housing, health, agriculture.

Specifically for Wyalusing Area School District, the focus will be on how the district responds to gas related issues, and whether or not the gas industry will affect the way young people think about their future.

Information will be gathered through two hour long focus groups with seven educators or administrators, and seven 11th grade students.

The proposal states that with the youth focus group, the discussion will center around community change and personal aspirations.

A date has not yet been set for the interviews, but Mummau said after the approval Monday that it will likely be "within a few weeks."

At the school board meeting, it was noted that students involved must obtain parental permission and that Dr. Schafft's final report will be shared with the district upon completion.

Mummau explained that the district is allowing the interviews to take place as a "courtesy to Penn State" and also "to contribute to the knowledge base on the subject of how the natural gas industry has impacted our community."

He expects the final report to be a historical overview of the past few years in regard to how the natural gas industry has impacted rural schools.

Mummau also noted, "The interviewing experience will be beneficial to our 11th grade students as they prepare for summer jobs and beyond."