Written by Greg Bird
Friday, 30 April 2010
The McCreary County Board of Education voted to not hold Saturday classes in a special-called meeting Tuesday night. The decision means that the last day of classes in McCreary County will be June 24th.
During the special meeting Superintendent Donnie Wright took a few minutes to review the potential pros and cons of the move, stating that there was the possibility of getting students two extra days of instruction before the testing cycle and giving students a longer summer break.
However, he noted, there would also be conflicts with community events such as Little League. Wright also stated that attendance would probably be low, and that could affect the District’s SEEK funding for future school years.
A brief survey of McCreary County School District teachers and staff was conducted Tuesday to get their input on Saturday classes. The results were pretty evenly split, with 85 choosing to not go on Saturday and 82 preferring the shorter school year.
Board Chair Stuart Jones asked McCreary Central Principal Sharon Ross about graduation at the high school, stating that many students have already ordered their invitations to the event, which would now have the incorrect date.
Mrs. Ross said she had been in contact with Jostins, the company that will print the majority of the invitations. She said they would cooperate by printing notes with the corrected date that students can insert into their invitations. She also said the company would print a corrected invitation for the students to save as keepsakes.
The Board will also ask the Kentucky Department of Education for a waiver to hold graduation the week before the final day of classes.
Under current Kentucky law, schools are not allowed to hold commencement until all days have been completed. Director of Pupil Personnel Schyler Jones said there is a small possibility that the KDE would grant the waiver.
After Wright opened the floor for comments, one parent said he believed it would be “unfair” to expect little children to go to school on Saturdays. “Six days a week is too much to ask for children,” he said. “Saturdays and Sundays for most families are family days.”
Board Member Shirley Wright agreed, stating she had received several calls from concerned parents about the possibilities. She expressed particular concern for the younger students having to ride the bus the extra day and the effects it would have on them.
After a discussion on the options, Wright made the motion to not have four Saturday’s added on to the calendar and Nelda Gilreath seconded the motion.
The Board voted unanimously to approve the motion, (Board member Joyce Kidd was not present at the meeting.)
The possibility of holding classes on Saturday reared Thursday night at the regular meeting of the McCreary County Board of education.
Director of Pupil Personnel Schyler Jones informed the Board that through a misunderstanding between his office and the Kentucky Department of Education, his estimation of ending the school year on June 17th was incorrect, and the actual date would be June 24th, unless the Board opted to hold some Saturday classes.
The calendar has been a topic of near-constant discussion in recent months as Districts around the state have been struggling to deal with the large number of missed days due to weather and illness over the past year.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, 18 percent of the state’s school districts have missed more than three weeks of instructional time this year. The McCreary County School District has missed 29 days so far.
The state would waive 9 of the 29 days, but the District would still have to make up the additional 20.
“We will get the nine days waived,” Jones said. “But, we will have to make up the 20 we missed first.”
Where the confusion came about was in Jones’ calculations of the make-up days. His initial submission to the KDE brought the District up to the required 172 instructional days, seemingly fulfilling the necessary dates for a legal school year. The KDE informed Jones last week that his proposal was insufficient, failing to take into account the full 20 missed days.
Jones noted that McCreary County is not the only District dealing with the calendar confusion right now.
“Several districts are trying to come up with a finalized calendar before the May 15th deadline,” he said.
Jones told the Board that he has been in almost constant communication with the KDE in trying to get the situation rectified and stated he was sorry to have to bring such news to the meeting.
“Nobody is more disappointed than me.
Jones told the Board members that if they wished to hold classes on Saturdays, the last date of classes would be June 17th. But, if they did not choose the weekend option, there would be no way of closing out the school year before June 24th.
The possibility of Saturday classes was addressed several weeks ago when the District polled students, staff and parents about the possibility. There was considerable support for Saturday classes, but the Board opted to stick with a regular weekday schedule.
The motion was tabled pending the Board examining their options and possibly polling teachers and parents regarding the possibility of the extra day.
The final date of classes for McCreary County Schools will be on June 24th, with graduation on June 26th. If Saturday classes were added, the final date would have been June 17th with graduation on June 19th.
During Thursday’s meeting the Board also tabled a motion to approve the calendar for the upcoming school year on the recommendation of Jones.
The Kentucky legislature has recessed without passing a completed budget, which would have implications of the 2010-11 calendar. One of the possibilities in the proposed budget would be cutting two days off the school year in a money-saving measure.
Jones said the District’s Calendar Committee had meet and finalized a calendar for the next year, but it does not reflect the possible two-day cut.
He requested the Board table the approval until he could assemble a second calendar that omits two days. When the Board reconvenes to address the current calendar situation, they would be able to also approve both calendars for next year at the same time.
The legislative budget also may have an impact on teachers’ salaries for next year. Superintendent Wright asked the Board to approve a reduction of two days from the 2010-11 contracts of all District Employees pending the possible legislative action. This will mean the loss of two days pay for all staff if the legislature approves the budget with the reduction included.