Stillwater Area Schools to consider extended-day options for school calendar

Stillwater Junior High School Principal Chuck Ochocki presented a possible new calendar idea for the 2015-2016 school year to ISD 834’s School Board on Feb. 27.

“Being on the calendar committee is an exercise in patience,” Ochocki said. “Its non-negotiable history and tradition can leave you feeling absolutely frustrated, but an interesting thing that came up on the fifth day that we hadn’t had school was the question about how is Burnsville not having to make up days.”

The answer was that Burnsville has an extended-day calendar model, and Ochocki floated the option as an idea for consideration. Other schools that the district provides transportation for would still need to be consulted, and other work would need to be done if the plan were to go into place.

Under this plan, 20 minutes would be added to classroom time in all schools, starting the day 10 minutes earlier and finishing the day 10 minutes later. He said this would result in more student time in the classroom and more opportunities for teachers to work on professional development to move the Bridge to Excellence plan forward.

If the calendar were expanded, Ochocki said, 13 additional professional development days would be at the beginning and end of the year to keep teachers in the classroom more.

“The teachers at my school are the greatest asset, and the more I can have them in our building, the better I think it is for our kids,” Ochocki said.

If the extended calendar were adopted, two weeks for winter break would be scheduled for 2015-2016.

The parameters of the calendar would include starting school after Labor Day, ending school by the first weekend in June, ensuring secondary students attend school for 1,020 hours and elementary students attend school for 935 hours, creating more time for conferences, honoring current teacher contracts including 192 days of work (including 5 holidays, 4 grading days and at least 7 professional development days) and keeping teachers in the building.

The school board instructed the teaching and learning department to look into the option to see what the pros and cons of the idea could be.

The board also:

• Approved lease prices for the secondary school student technology leasing option which are set at $114 per year for a two-year Chromebook lease, $75 per year for a three-year iPad Mini, $142 per year for a three-year iPad Air lease, and $292 per year for a Macbook Air. Technology will not be given out until the amount is paid. Executive Director of Secondary Schools Ryan Laager and Technology coordinator Jeff Brazee said that though the technology would be available to students to take home once the amount is paid, students must still abide by the technology policy provided by the school district.

Board member George Hoeppner, after stating that he didn’t want this program to result in the haves and have-nots of the district, was told that some leasing prices could be adjusted for free-and-reduced-lunch students.

• Heard about the new learning and grading initiative that has been put in place in the schools.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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