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School calendar adds delays

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All students who attend Yellow Springs schools next year will start two hours late on 14 Wednesdays to make dedicated time for teacher professional development. The school board approved the 2014–15 calendar, including this pilot late start, at its meeting on Thursday, April 10. Other calendar changes included the addition of three calamity days to the end of the current school year, and fewer waiver day Fridays.

The Wednesday delays are the biggest change in the calendar. Starting in September, on specified Wednesdays school for students in grades K-12 will start two hours later than normal, meaning 10:05 a.m. at Mills Lawn, and 10:45 a.m. at ­McKinney Middle School and Yellow Springs High School. The delays are scheduled to occur in 2014 on Wednesday, Sept. 10 and 24, Oct. 8 and 22, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10. Wednesday delays continue in 2015 on Jan. 14 and 28, Feb. 11 and 25, March 11, April 8 and 22, and May 13.

According to a teacher development committee co-chaired by Mills Lawn teachers Becky O’Brien and Heidi Hoover, the delays are a response to teachers’ need for uninterrupted time spent on collaboration and better implementation of ­project-based learning. After a parent survey and several public meetings with parents and community members, the committee recommended the delays as a way to allow teacher collaboration at frequent intervals and dedicate that time to the exclusion of addressing other matters such as new state teaching standards, teacher evaluations and standardized testing schedules. The delays were also the least disruptive to family schedules, according to the surveys and parent feedback, the committee chairs said during the meeting.

The school plans to provide some kind of support for families who cannot arrange for childcare on late-start mornings. According to the parent survey, families with students in kindergarten through fourth grade indicated the most need for support, and the district would like to be able to continue to offer breakfast for students who want it, District Superintendent Mario Basora said. Board members suggested involving the high school students as potential mentors and childcare providers.

According to Basora, the Wednesday delays are a pilot attempt to address teachers’ needs. Teachers will use the time to share project models and critique each other’s work to improve its effectiveness in the classroom, Basora said. If it’s successful, it may be repeated next year, but if it doesn’t work, the district is likely to try a different approach next year.
“During the day there’s not a lot of common planning time, so we had to add time in the schedule for this kind of transformational change,” Basora said after the school board meeting. “If it doesn’t produce results — if parents don’t see a direct improvement in instruction — we’re not going to do it again,” he said.

Other teacher professional development days next school year will include two days before school starts on Aug. 18 and 19 (first day of school is Aug. 22.); Fridays, Oct. 17 and Nov. 7, 2014; and Friday, March 6, 2015. Fridays used for professional development are also known as waiver days, and will be fewer next school year than they have been in 2013–14, largely due to late-start Wednesdays.

In addition to the late starts, the state has mandated that the district add three days of school to the end of the current academic year. The change would make June 4 the last day of school for students in grades K–11. Seniors are exempt from the mandate and will graduate as scheduled on May 29 without further obligation to attend school. While sixth-grade and eighth-grade promotion events will also occur as scheduled on May 27 and 28, respectively, those students are mandated to return to school to complete the calamity days.

In other school board business:
• The board committed to helping Yellow Springs Capital Endowment to raise $440,000, the estimate needed to fund the curricular transformation in the district’s strategic plan through the year 2020. The board discussed the financial specifics during a work session in March. Most of the YSCAPE funds would be used to support teacher training for project-based learning.

The board also agreed to hire a part-time development officer for a three-month period to begin fundraising research, especially among the school’s 40 years of alumni. That position would be funded by an anonymous donation.

• The board approved a contract with the Greene County Educational Service Center for the 2014–15 school year in the amount of $240,000. The ESC provides special education services such as speech, psychological and occupational therapy, as well as a school for intensive needs students.

• The board approved employment contracts for substitute teachers Douglas Coy and Kevin Tucker, to be compensated at $80 per day.


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