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Edgar teachers upset over date changes due to April snow day

Edgar teachers upset over date changes due to  April snow day Edgar teachers upset over date changes due to  April snow day

By Hannah Alden

Two individuals came forward during the Edgar School Board’s meeting last week to discuss some disapproval about staff being required to either work another day at the end of the year or use their banked compensatory time to make up for missed hours after a late-in-the-season snow day.

On April 17, the Edgar School District called off school due to a snow storm. The combination of it being a Monday and the unpredictable weather made it too difficult to pursue a virtual learning day, according to District Administrator Cari Guden. Usually the district would opt for a virtual day if teachers and students were alerted to take materials home and be ready for online learning on the day prior to a storm. But this time, Guden said it was “too spur of the moment” for that option.

According to Guden, the following day, administrators met to come up with a plan to make up the lost hours, as the district had already used its allotted snow days. They discussed a few options, including adding on minutes to each remaining school day, but ultimately decided to make April 28, originally scheduled to be a teacher in-service day, a regular school day. Along with that choice, the in-service day was rescheduled to be June 5, the Monday after the final week of school.

After alerting staff to the change, Guden said she received emails regarding teacher conflicts on June 5. She said of seven individuals who had issues with the date, five have submitted time off requests. According to Guden, teachers were given the option to either come in on June 5 or use their banked comp time to cover their absence.

During the public comment portion at the beginning of last Wednesday’s meeting, Kevin Ruplinger, a high school science teacher, spoke about how teachers were upset with the decision.

“June 5 was nowhere on the calendar indicated as any kind of school day,” Ruplinger said. “It was not indicated as any possibility of a school day. So teachers made plans. Some have travel plans or family obligations.”

Ruplinger said since banked comp time is paid out at the end of the year, teachers are “being charged $160 or more because they made plans” on a date that wasn’t on the calendar.

“I will tell you I have talked to no one on the staff that feels that’s anything other than an insult,” Ruplinger said.

English teacher Tina Higgins made similar remarks to Ruplinger’s, stating that even though there weren’t many teachers in the audience, older staff members were hearing the questions and opinions from younger teachers. She said she’s heard from teachers who feel like administrators aren’t treating them like professionals, especially as other career options may allow for employees to work outside of regularly scheduled hours and have that time count toward their jobs.

Board member Rebecca Normington said while “it’s sad that people are feeling ripped off,” she felt the right choice was made by administrators. Other board members echoed Normington’s opinion, including newly elected Alison Reinders.

“I think that it’s one of these times where you have to take it on the chin, but you made the best decision for kids,” Reinders said. “And the teachers for that matter, because the teachers were not prepared to teach virtually.”

According to Guden, there is a statement in the district’s employee hand-book that says administrators have discretion on how to make up missed days. Teachers are required to work 189.5 contract days each year. That number is determined by local school boards; Edgar’s has not changed in at least 10 years, according to Guden.

During the discussion about the issue, the board also talked about next year’s school calendar and their feelings about virtual learning days. The calendar for the 2023-24 school year has three snow days built in. Any make-up days beyond that point will occur during the week of June 3, as determined by administrators. Officials also discussed the need to review plans for virtual learning days, including the possibility of ending them all together and going back to snow days being free days.

In other business:

n The board discussed the request from Edgar Area Trail Systems (EATS) to put a storage shed on school property with its insurance representative present during the meeting. The structure, proposed to be built on the east side of the tennis courts, would house the group’s trail equipment. Earlier this year, Guden inquired with the district’s insurer about the request and received a statement with a comment about “a lot of extra liability” for the district if the shed is constructed.

According to Don Spindler, the district’s insurance representative, it would be a liability increase of between $3,000 and $5,000 for the district. The main issue the insurer had with the idea was the district not owning the building and allowing people to come and go without any knowledge of what was going on. He suggested the group could construct the shed, then donate it to the district to help alleviate the concern. EATS representatives at the meeting said the group would be willing to consider that option.

n Two Edgar staff members were recognized during the meeting for receiving awards from Marathon County Special Education. During the May 3 ceremony, Kamryn Butt, a first grade special education teacher, was named as one recipient of the New Teacher of the Year and Katie Fermanich, a paraprofessional, received the New Support Staff of the Year award.