Board delays decision on start timesThe Superior School Board on Tuesday voted to postpone a decision on its proposal to introduce new start and dismissal times for its eight district schools.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Superior School Board on Tuesday voted to postpone a decision on its proposal to introduce new start and dismissal times for its eight district schools.
Board member Bonnie Baker put forth the motion to table the school start time issue until the board’s next regular meeting, May, and it was seconded by Christina Kintop.
“I think you can see from the inability to resolve this that it’s troubling the board and it’s receiving a great deal of discussion and consideration,” said John Hendricks, Board president. “I want you to know that what you’re saying to us is being considered and has been considered.”
The proposal had called for five of the district’s six elementary schools to start about half an hour earlier, while Superior Middle School and Superior High School would start 15 and 25 minutes later, respectively. The exception at the elementary school level was Four Corners, which was scheduled to see its starting time moved from 8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
The time changes would allow the Superior school district to streamline its bus routes and save an estimated $170,000. The Superior school district faces a $700,000 budget shortfall for the 2012-13 school year, which follows a $2.7 million cut this year.
“We have to make sure we come in under budget next year,” said superintendent Janna Stevens.
Class sizes have already gone up, so the district nixed the idea of cutting teaching staff, and Stevens said cutting programs would only be considered as a last resort.
“We try to start as far away from the classroom as possible,” Stevens said.
The board has worked on the school start time plan since December, but the majority of the board members present at Tuesday’s meeting felt more time was still needed to properly address concerns.
The proposed 9:15 a.m. start time and 3:45 dismissal for Four Corners was a major concern for parents and teachers who spoke at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting. About 75 members of the public traveled to Lake Superior Elementary School for the meeting, which was about the same size of the group that attended last week’s committee of the whole meeting at Superior Middle School.
Among the issues raised were worries about student safety, increased tardiness among students, increased child care costs for parents, longer bus rides and the mixing of elementary and high school students on buses. One of the most repeated concerns was that students could be walking to school or waiting at bus stops before daybreak.
Kintop said they understood and appreciated the feedback from the public, but she also emphasized the School Board is limited in what it can do to balance its budget.
“People we don’t have a lot of options,” Kintop said. “There’s not fat left in this district; there hasn’t been for the last 10 years. We hate having to do this but we’ve got to look at what’s going to best serve this district.”
The Superior School Board also voted Tuesday to approve a calendar for the 2012-13 school year that would add three staff development days for teachers, bringing the total to eight. The motion passed 4-1.
“We will need more days to accomplish what we want to do with our Common Core Standards,” Stevens said. “We need the eight staff development days.”
Teachers will receive a $500 stipend to offset the additional work they’re being asked to do, but Stevens acknowledged that stipend was not equal to the per diem pay teachers receive.
To match teachers’ per diem rate for the three additional days would cost the district $500,000, Stevens said. Only $180,000 is available in the budget, which could have been divided among the teachers through the $500 stipend or used to hire substitutes to fill in for the teachers.
Kim Kohlhaas, president of the Superior Federation of Teachers, said the district teachers would have preferred if the School Board went with a calendar option that did not lengthen the school year and add staff development days.
“We feel like the teachers have already been asked to accept extended days with the (proposed) school start and end times,” Kohlhaas said. She said the addition of the three staff development days, which were formerly subject to collective bargaining, is harsh.
The calendar sets the first day of school at Sept. 4 and the last at June 11.