School board meets again about new calendar before February vote
Principals, faculty and staff sat in the audience at the Moffat County Board of Education special meeting to hear board members discuss community feedback regarding the proposed calendar, as differences in approach toward a potential four-day school week continued to be apparent.
What the board wants
Over the past couple of weeks, the board has hosted community listening sessions regarding Moffat County School District’s transition to a four-day school week. Most board members on Wednesday were concerned about how many weeks of summer would be cut into as part of an extended school year should the district go to four-day weeks. The current calendar proposal for 2022-2023 has students starting the Monday after the Moffat County Fair and going until the beginning of June.
Board president JoAnn Baxter, who has been against four-day school weeks in the past, said on Wednesday that she has accepted the change after hearing what the community and staff wants over the course of listening sessions.
“I hope that we can make that work educationally, and that we will continue to study and review these calendars,” Baxter said. “I know that we’ve tried to accept the three-year calendar, and I approve of that, but at the same time, we need to look at our scores and see how they’re doing at the end (of the calendar’s first three years) and compare our scores to our scores (and not another district’s).”
As of Wednesday, the calendar committee had drafted three calendars for the next three school years. The first year of those calendars (drafted for this fall) started earlier and ended later than what some parents and board members think is necessary. Currently, the draft has more than the required minimum instructional hours that is required by the state. Committee members have said throughout the approval process that those hours are there in order to help combat the “COVID slide,” or the delay in educational growth as a result of the pandemic, and to help staff and students adjust to four weeks.
One solution to prevent a longer summer, some board members said, was possibly implementing an optional summer school period for students that were struggling.
“To try to build (extra hours of instructional time) into the school year and bump it up in August and extend it into June, I don’t think those quantity days will make that worth it — versus where we can have a summer school program that can be a really important focus with smaller class sizes for the students that need more one on one attention,” board member Chris Thome said.
Board members also expressed that, in addition, to a shorter year overall, they also didn’t want students going to school into the evening. Others prioritized having two weeks at Christmas in order to allow teachers time to recuperate and to travel for the holidays.
Throughout the meeting, board members asked for input from staff and faculty who were in attendance. One concern brought up several times was keeping the two semesters even at the upper level in terms of days. At the high school, there are classes that go for only a semester, and some have concurrent enrollment with Colorado Northwestern Community College. Having one semester be significantly shorter could cause issues, they said.
“I believe that my high school staff — I don’t know about the middle school staff — would rather have a more balanced semester than have an unbalanced one as a pretty high priority,” MCHS principal Sarah Hepworth told the board.
Another concern was with recruitment for teachers coming in the fall. At the moment, because the calendar is not approved yet, principals are showing prospective teachers this year’s calendar — which is still five days. A main point of creating a four-day option is to use it as a recruitment tool, so having it before a big hiring push in March is essential.
“If we go to a four-day week, there’s a lot of work that we need to do,” Sunset Elementary principal Jill Hafey said. “If we push this past the February board meeting, we have missed a lot of opportunities in March to hire as well. And that is one of our reasons as to why to go to a four-day week. We’re going to miss one of the most important times of hiring.”
The final calendar must be approved by the board by the state Department of Education’s deadline in March. On Thursday, the calendar committee met again to tweak their proposal based on the board’s suggestions and will re-present a new version at the next board meeting on Feb. 24.
If the board were to put the approval on the work session, that would allow for another discussion before the official meeting. If not, there will be little to no discussion before the decision is made. The board could choose to not vote at all and push the vote back into their March session, the last chance to get it approved if they don’t call another special session.
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