School Board hears about possible ‘alternative calendar’ school year

Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The Miller School Board held a special meeting April 2. A key purpose for the meeting was to hear a presentation about a four-day school week.

Dean Christiansen, superintendent of the Deuel School District, Clear Lake, told the audience that district has been operating with an “alternative calendar” for six years.

Christiansen said he prefers the term “alternative calendar” to a four-day school week, because in some instances the calendar varies.

Christiansen said those figures are above the state requirements for teacher contact time, even with a four-day week.

“The staff has to buy into the concept,” Christiansen said. “And it is important that the community embraces the idea. But I absolutely see the value of the alternative calendar.”

Christiansen said classes are held Monday through Thursday, from 8:10 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. Fridays are used for teacher professional development and to be available to provide extra help to students. Non-class activities such as field trips are also reserved for Fridays.

When the Deuel School District implemented the four-day schedule, Christiansen says it was for three primary reasons: to encourage professional development; to provide additional help for at-risk students; and to realize a cost savings. He added that with today’s ever-expanding technology, it is imperative that teachers are at the top of their game. “I can’t stress enough the value of professional development,” he stated.

He said students in grades six through 12 gave the alternative calendar a 99.9 percent favorable rating. They cited having a better attitude toward school. They also saw a better quality of class time and recognized the value of Friday help for students.

Summing up, he stated, “I have no negatives about our decision to go to an alternative calendar.”

Following the presentation, the school board discussed the possibility of an alternative calendar, and how soon it could be implemented if the decision was made to take that route. More discussion would be held at the April 8 regular meeting.

The building committee reported the elementary building is nearing completion, and there is a “flurry of activity” to meet the May deadline. Board chair David Fremark commented that last minute details are underway, and “there is quite a bit of wrap-up to complete.” The board would take another walk-through at the April 8 meeting.

Also touched on was the school budget for the 2013-14 school year. Superintendent Mike Ruth said some adjustments have resulted in about $200,000.00 in savings.

On Hand Development Corporation was again put on the agenda for the April 8 meeting, to discuss further the options for the school district’s disposal of the current elementary building.

The board members moved to accept the resignation of Tyler Sieh, secondary social science, at the end of the present school year.

Members also voted to non-renew the contract for Christopher Blesch, alternative education instructor, for the upcoming school year.