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|2/15/2014 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Snow days push Central school year into early June|
By Jeremy Huss
Snow days will push the end of the school year for the Central Community School District into the first week of June after inclement weather resulted in six school closings so far this winter.
Members of the Central Community School Board Feb. 11 discussed the option of using scheduled vacation days as make-up days throughout the remainder of the school year in an effort to finish classes in May, but the board struck down that proposal on the recommendation of superintendent Dan Peterson. The last day of school currently is set for June 3.
Peterson said it's unfair to students, parents and staff members who have used the official school calendar for planning purposes to cancel those vacation days more than halfway into the year.
Peterson opened the discussion by presenting the results of a survey of 144 teachers regarding options for school make-up days.
"This is a concern on a lot of people's minds - parents, students, teachers," Peterson said.
The vast majority of staff surveyed, 87 percent, favored using scheduled vacation days as make-up days, but there was less agreement on which days should be used.
Survey results show 71 percent support using Monday, Feb. 17 (Presidents Day) as a make-up day and 73 percent support using Wednesday, March 19 (spring vacation) as a make-up day.
Support drops to 57 percent for Thursday, March 20 (spring vacation) and to 44 percent for Friday, March 21 (spring vacation).
Seventy-four percent objected to using Friday, April 18 (Good Friday) as a make-up day, while 86 percent supported using Monday, April 21 (professional development day).
Despite the staff preference for using make-up days within the school year, Peterson recommended against it, saying community members should be able to rely on the official school calendar as a planning document.
"Where we run into a problem is - when I hand out a school calendar in the spring, I like it to be a black-and-white calendar they can use for planning," Peterson said.
Some parents and staff already have scheduled medical appointments, dental appointments and vacations during school breaks, Peterson said. It isn't fair to force them to cancel plans when they may already have booked flights or hotel rooms, he added.
"I'm going to recommend we stay as-is and not use those extra days we surveyed these folks about," Peterson said.
Board member Jim Irwin said he agreed with Peterson's rationale for this year but proposed scheduling potential make-up days in future calendars that could be used if there were a need.
Peterson said the board "can have that conversation" but indicated he was against the idea for the same reasons.
Board member Angela Rheingans said students will be antsy during the last week of school no matter when the final day is scheduled, and board member Jennifer Naeve said she agreed with Peterson's thinking.
Board members noted it is not unusual for school to continue into the first week of June and pointed out delaying the start of the school year, as some community members advocate, would only push more school days into the summer.
Board approves calendar for 2014-15 school year
With consensus reached to keep the calendar for the current school year intact, the conversation turned to the calendar for the 2014-15 school year, which the board was scheduled to approve.
Board member Steve Fuglsang asked for Peterson's thoughts on basing the schedule on hours or days. Legislation approved last year gave schools the option of calculating the minimum educational time in hours instead of days, allowing districts to meet the state minimum with 1,080 hours of school in lieu of the current of 180-day requirement.
Fuglsang noted the current school calendar would give students 26 more hours in class than required if Central switches to the standard of 1,080 hours.
Peterson said the hours-based calculation could give Central more flexibility, but he doesn't want to make the switch unless the legislature approves a clean-up bill to address several concerns with last year's legislation.
If the district switches from days to hours, it raises the question of whether students will be required to make up snow days since they'll already be over the minimum hours for the year, Peterson said. A switch to hours also impacts teacher contracts since they are based on a 180-day schedule, whereas making no change avoids those issues, he said.
He clarified he was asking the board to approve only the calendar dates, and a final decision on hours vs. days will be made in March or April pending legislative action.
The board reviewed the calendar dates, with Peterson noting the calendar is "largely identical to what we have this year."
Under the new calendar, school begins Aug. 14 and the first semester ends Dec. 19. After a two-week winter break, classes resume Jan. 6. Commencement is scheduled for May 17, with school ending for other students May 22.
Naeve said she previously spoke with a parent who had concerns about the early start date conflicting with the state fair, which runs through Aug. 17.
She said she understands the concern, but the start date is not any earlier than normal for the district.
Starting school on a Thursday rather than a Monday helps students and teachers ease into the year, she said, and school must begin in mid-August for the district to finish the first semester before winter break, otherwise students will have two weeks off before they come back to take final exams.
Peterson reiterated the calendar for the 2014-15 school year has no built-in snow days, and the board voted to approve it 4-0. Board president Christy Kunz was absent.