After nearly an hour of discussion Monday night, the Central Valley school board voted to have students make up three of the five days missed during this winter’s big storm at the end of the school year. The last day of school will move from June 12 to June 17, a Wednesday.
“We understand and know that families make plans based on school calendars,” said Superintendent Ben Small. “There’s always a balance to strike between instructional hours and disruptiveness.”
Central Valley will apply for a waiver from the state so two days will not have to be made up. The waiver is possible because of the state of emergency declared by the governor.
In a normal school year districts are required to hold classes for 180 days and give each student 1,000 hours of instruction time. A waiver allows districts to disregard the 180-day rule, but they still have to meet the 1,000 hours of instruction requirement.
Waiving all five days was not an option, Small said. “We do not meet the threshold of 1,000 hours,” he said. “We are under it by one hour.”
Most districts in the area are planning to make up all or some of the days missed, Small said. East Valley has already moved its last day of school to June 19.
Small presented a variety of options for the board to consider. “The first one is to make up all five days during spring break,” he said, ducking theatrically as he scanned the audience.
“Mr. Small, can you turn around so we can see the target on your back?” said board President Cindy McMullen.
He also considered having school on Saturdays and making up days on legal holidays. “As you look into that, you find it’s against the law,” he said.
Adding time to the school day has been a popular suggestion, but would be difficult to pull off. It’s not so much of a problem for elementary schools, but doing that at upper level schools with multiple periods each day turns into a scheduling nightmare, he said. “There’s logistics that have to be worked out – bus schedules, overtime,” he said. “It does have a negative impact on our budget.”
The board members agreed unanimously with Small’s suggestion to apply for a waiver for two days and make up the other three. “It’s going to be painful to go those three more days, but it’s better than five,” said board member Tom Dingus.
McMullen asked about the plan for seniors, who are currently scheduled to finish school the first week of June. “We’re looking at those options,” said Small. “Those things would not be firmed up at this point.”
The new schedule would push final exams to the third week in June. Small said the district will need to be flexible in working with students who have travel plans they can’t change and would need to take exams early. “It’s probably the least disruptive to our families and staff.”
The district has been hampered by not having snow makeup days built into the calendar. Discussions will be getting under way soon with the district’s teacher and employee unions about adding makeup days to the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school calendars.
In other business, the board also heard a report about the nutrition services program. Last year the board voted to raise meal prices and reduce menu options. The goal was to limit the amount the district had to subsidize the program to $300,000.
If things continue the way they have been, the district will end up paying $425,000 by the end of the year. “Food prices have continued to rise,” said Brad Wayland, director of facilities and operations. “We were hoping they would level off.”
Fewer students are paying for meals, which was expected when prices increased. “Kids will stop initially,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll come back.”
It was also necessary to adjust staff hours at some schools after previously reducing them, Small said. “We added some labor costs because the cuts were too deep,” he said.
Staff is checking into expanding hot breakfast items to entice more students to buy the food and will also examine whether to serve extremely popular items more frequently.
Board member Debbie Long expressed concern about the projected numbers and said something must be done to cut costs and boost the number of meals served because the district simply can’t afford to spend $425,000. “I don’t know where the other $125,000 is going to come from,” she said.