Trinity Area School District

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Trinity Area School District
Map of Washington County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
231 Park Avenue
Washington, Pennsylvania, Washington County, 15301
United States
Established 1925
School board 9 elected members
Superintendent Dr. Paul Kasunich
Grades K-12
Enrollment 3419 (2009-10)
Kindergarten 227
Grade 1 247
Grade 2 224
Grade 3 234
Grade 4 256
Grade 5 265
Grade 6 277
Grade 7 252
Grade 8 307
Grade 9 289
Grade 10 254
Grade 11 291
Grade 12 296
Other Enrollment declining to 3390 by 2019[1]
Color(s) Blue&White
Mascot Hiller
Rival Canon-McMillan
Yearbook Olympus

Trinity Area School District is located near Washington, Pennsylvania. It serves the Pittsburgh exurbs of Canton Township, South Strabane Township, and North Franklin Township, as well as rural Amwell Township. The district encompasses approximately 87 square miles. According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 25,591. In 2009, the district residents' per capita income was $19,473, while the median family income was $48,310.[2] According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Trinity Area School District provided basic educational services to 3,542 pupils through the employment of 259 teachers, 142 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 20 administrators.

The history of the school district dates back to the 1850s when Joseph McKnight built a home on top of a hill overlooking the city of Washington, Pennsylvania. This home came to be called Spring Hill and is now the old part of the district's high school. It later was established as an Episcopal military school for boys and was named Trinity Hall Military Academy. Trinity Hall Military Academy became one of the best equipped military schools for boys in the country. The Smith family owned the property after McKnight and welcomed President Ulysses S. Grant to stay there on several occasions. It had to be expanded in 1881 due to the school's number of students had increased. After the death of William Smith in 1904, the school had to close due to lack of funding. It reopened in 1925 with a joint venture of Amwell, Canton, North Franklin, and South Strabane Townships to establish the building as a high school. This marks the foundation of the school district.

The district operates six schools: Trinity North Elementary, Trinity South Elementary, Trinity East Elementary, Trinity West Elementary, Trinity Middle School and Trinity High School

Academic achievement[edit]

Trinity Area School District was ranked 166th out of 500 Pennsylvania school districts, in 2011, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on five years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for math, reading, writing and three years of science.[3]

  • 2010 - 170th [4]
  • 2009 - 179th
  • 2008 - 180th
  • 2007 - 210th of 501 school districts.[5]

In 2009, the academic achievement, of the students in the Trinity Area School District, was in the 58th percentile among all 500 Pennsylvania school districts Scale (0-99; 100 is state best) [6]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Trinity School District's graduation rate was calculated to be 85% for 2010.[7]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations
  • 2010 - 96%[8]
  • 2009 - 96%
  • 2008 - 94% [9]
  • 2007 - 94% [10]

High school[edit]

In 2011, Trinity Senior High School declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging mathematics achievement. The math achievement fell below the State AYP goal of 67% for Math and below the statewide 11th grade achievement level of 60% on grade level. In 2010, the school achieved AYP status.[11]

In 2011, the 11th grade ranked 40th among 122 western Pennsylvania school district 11th grades, for academic achievement as measured by five years of the PSSAs.[12]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 70% on grade level, (13% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[13]
  • 2010 - 75%, (11% below basic). State - 66%.[14]
  • 2009 - 74%, (16% below basic), State - 65%.[15]
  • 2008 - 75%, (9% below basic). State - 65%.[16]
  • 2007 - 82% (10% below basic), State - 65%.[17]
11th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 58% on grade level (21% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.
  • 2010 - 64% (19% below basic). State - 59%.[18]
  • 2009 - 54% (28% below basic). State - 56%
  • 2008 - 57% (29% below basic). State - 56% [19]
  • 2007 - 67% (11% below basic). State - 53%
11th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 40% on grade level (14% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level. .[20]
  • 2010 - 44% (12% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 43% (13% below basic). State - 40%
  • 2008 - 48% (7% below basic). State - 39%
College remediation

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 18% of Trinity Senior High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[21] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[22] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Dual enrollment[edit]

The high school offers the Pennsylvania dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[23] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[24] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[25]

In 2010 the district received $17,753.00 in a state grant to be used assist students with tuition, fees and books.

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Trinity Area School District School Board has determined that students must earn 22 credits to graduate.[26]

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[27] At Trinity High School the graduation project includes: 10 hours of community service, school visitation, job shadowing and a written paper. Trinity's CARE project focuses on career exploration. The completion of each phase of CARE earns the student 1/4 credit with a full credit eventually earned towards graduation.

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating classes of 2015 and 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[28]

Trinity Middle School[edit]

In 2011 and 2010, the school achieved AYP status.[29] In 2011 and 2010, the school's attendance rate was 93%.[30]

Eighth grade[edit]

In 2011, the 8th grade ranked 49th among 149 western Pennsylvania school district 8th grades, for academic achievement as measured by five years of the PSSAs.[31] In 2009, the 8th grade was ranked 51st out of 141 western Pennsylvania middle schools based on three years of student academic achievement in PSSAs in: reading, math writing and one year of science.[32] (Includes schools in: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Westmoreland County, and Washington County

8th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 89% on grade level, 66% advanced. In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.
  • 2010 - 88% (5% below basic). State - 81% [33]
  • 2009 - 86% (8% below basic). State - 80%
  • 2008 - 83% (9% below basic). State - 78%
  • 2007 - 80% (7% below basic). State - 75%[34]
8th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 88% on grade level, 56% advanced. State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 79% (9% below basic) State - 75%
  • 2009 - 77% (7% below basic), State - 71%
  • 2008 - 73% (14% below basic), State - 70% [35]
  • 2007 - 71% (10% below basic), State - 67%
8th Grade Science
  • 2011 - % on grade level (% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 72%, State - 57%.
  • 2009 - 65%, State - 54% [36]
  • 2008 - 67%, State - 52% [37]

Seventh grade[edit]

In 2011, Trinity Middle School's 7th grade ranked 51st among 148 western Pennsylvania school district 7th grades, for academic achievement as measured by five years of the PSSAs.[38]

7th Grade Reading:
  • 2011 - 80% on grade level, (3% below basic). State – 76%
  • 2010 - 78% (7% below basic). State - 73%
  • 2009 - 78% (11% below basic). State - 71.7%
  • 2008 - 76% (13% below basic). State - 70%
  • 2007 - 77% (9% below basic). State - 66%
7th Grade Math:
  • 2011 - 85% on grade level. 63% advanced. State - 78.6%
  • 2010 - 82% (5% below basic). State - 77%
  • 2009 - 77% (9% below basic). State - 75%
  • 2008 - 71% (14% below basic). State - 72%
  • 2007 - 72% (14% below basic). State - 67%

Sixth grade[edit]

In 2011, the 6th grade ranked 90th among 202 western Pennsylvania school district 6th grades, for academic achievement as measured by five years of the PSSAs.[39]

6th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 73% on grade level (10% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 69.9% of 6th graders are on grade level.
  • 2010 - 77% (8% below basic) State - 68%
  • 2009 - 69% (12% below basic), State - 67%
  • 2008 - 70% (13% below basic), State - 67%
  • 2007 - 60% (16% below basic), State - 63%
6th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 84% on grade level, 63% advanced. State - 78.8%
  • 2010 - 83% on grade level. (5% below basic) State - 78%
  • 2009 - 83% (9% below basic), State - 75.9%
  • 2008 - 69% (15% below basic), State - 72%
  • 2007 - 72% (9% below basic), State - 69%

Special education[edit]

In December 2009, the district administration reported that 552 pupils or 15% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[40][41]

The District engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress. To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Instructional Support Team or Student Assistance Team. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the Special Education Department.[42]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[43]

Trinity Area School District received a $1,903,871 supplement for special education services in 2010.[44]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 98 or 2.81% of its students were gifted in 2009.[45] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The primary emphasis is on enrichment and acceleration of the regular education curriculum through a push in model with the gifted instructor in the classroom with the regular instructor. This approach permits such specialized instructional strategies as tiered assignments, curriculum compacting, flexible grouping, learning stations, independent projects and independent contracts. Students identified as gifted attending the High School have access to honors and advanced placement courses, and dual enrollment with local colleges. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[46]

Bullying and school safety[edit]

The Trinity Area School District administration reported there were zero incidents of bullying in the district in 2009. There were 25 reports of fighting.[47][48]

The Trinity Area School Board has provided the district's bullying policy online.[49] All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students.[50] The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.[51]

Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.[52]


In 2009, the district reports employing over 270 teachers with a starting salary of $40,000 for 182 for instructional days a 5 non teaching days.[53] The average teacher salary was $57,260 while the maximum salary is $138,318.[54] As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[55] Additionally, Trinity Area School District teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, a retirement bonus of 50% of their salary, professional development reimbursement, 3 paid personal days, 1 emergency leave day, 4 paid bereavement days and 10 sick days, life insurance and other benefits. The union heads get paid time off to perform union business. Teachers receive additional compensation for additional duties and extra work outside of school hours.[56] According to State Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[57]

In 2007, the district employed 233 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $54,849 for 180 school days worked.[58]

Trinity Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $792.09 per pupil. The district is ranked 206th out of 500 in Pennsylvania for administrative spending. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[59]

In 2008, Trinity Area School District reported spending $12,442 per pupil. This ranked 229th in the commonwealth.[60]


In 2009, the district reported $2,634,846 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as zero.[61]

In January 2011, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. Findings were reported to the administration and school board.[62]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax regardless of the individual's wealth.[63]

State basic education funding[edit]

In 2011-12, the district received $11,163,203 in state Basic Education Funding.[64] Additionally, the Trinity Area School District will receive $161,236, in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011. The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District which received an over 49% increase.[65]

For the 2010-11 school year, Trinity Area School District received a 2.95% increase in state Basic Education Funding resulting in $11,945,749 from the state.[66] Charleroi School District received 9.90% which was the highest increase in BEF in Washington County. Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County received the highest increase in the state at 23.65% increase in funding for the 2010-11 school year. One hundred fifty school districts received the base 2% increase in 2010-11. The amount of increase each school district receives was determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the state budget proposal made in February each year.[67]

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.95% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $11,603,644. The state Basic Education funding to the district in 2008-09 was $10,863,558.46. The district also received supplemental funding for English language learners, Title 1 federal funding for low-income students, for district size, a poverty supplement from the commonwealth and more.[68] Burgettstown Area School District received a 6.45% increase, the highest increase in Washington County for the 2009-10 school year. Among the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding.[69]

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 570 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007-2008 school year.[70]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004-2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students. For 2010-11 the Trinity Area School District applied for and received $565,118 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten for the 7th year, to reduce class size k-3 and to provide teaching coaching to improve math and reading instruction.[71][72]

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. Trinity Area School District was denied funding in 2006-07. In 2007-08 the district received $352,385. For the 2008-09, school year the district received $63,341 for a total of $415,726. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[73]

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $1,621,202 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[74] The funding is for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.

Race to the Top grant[edit]

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district up to one million additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[75] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[76] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[77]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Trinity Area School Board did not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[78] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

The Trinity Area School Board set property tax rates in 2010-2011 at 103.0000 mills.[79] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections (Local Tax Enabling Act), which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[80] The school district includes municipalities in three counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, necessitating a state board equalization of the tax rates between the counties.

  • 2009-10 - 103.0000 mills.
  • 2008-09 - 103.0000 mills.
  • 2007-08 - 105.0000 mills.

Act 1 Adjusted index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not authorized to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011-2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[81]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Trinity Area School District 2006-2007 through 2010-2011.[82]

  • 2006-07 - 5.1%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.3%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 5.6%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.2%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 3.7%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 1.8%, Base 1.4%

For the 2011-12 school year the Trinity Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For each annual school budget, the Trinity Area School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is publisher each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[83]

According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[84]

Trinity Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budgets in 2009-10 or in 2010-11.[85] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[86]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Trinity Area School District was $171 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 7,515 property owners applied for the tax relief. Washington School District received $407, the highest property tax relief allotted in Washington County for 2009.[87] The tax relief was subtracted from the total annual school property on the individual's tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. The Pennsylvania Auditor General found that 73% of property owners applied for tax relief in Washington County.[88] Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[89] This was the second year Chester Upland School District was the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently individuals who have income substantially more than $35,000, may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[90]

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[91]


The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility to participate is set by school board policies.[92][93]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[94][95]

In 2010 an investigation was conducted into the uncontrolled spending of the Trinity High School athletics coaches. The report called for various changes to assure appropriate, student focused, spending.[96]


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