School board looks at calendar options
Votes to stay with Friday of Memorial Day weekend closing date as goal
The Medford School District will once again plan on having all students end classes for the year on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend for the 2020-2021 calendar year. As with attempts last year to do this, it will largely depend on Mother Nature if that happens.
In response to concerns about the gap of time between when seniors graduated and when the rest of the students finished the year in previous years’ calendars, for last year’s calendar the district increased the number of minutes of instruction for each day and set the school year to end for all students on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. In reality with the number of snow days last year, students ended up having to go into the next week in order to make up the days.
At the December 18 school board meeting, district administrator Pat Sullivan said that administration had looked at having all of Thanksgiving week off in exchange for ending school for the year on June 3. However, after surveying district staff, he noted there was overwhelming support for a staff-generated calendar that kept school on the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week and ended the school year on May 28, 2021. In both plans, the district would have 179 student contact days and 179.5 teacher work days.
According to Sullivan 73% of the staff that responded were in favor of the calendar ending on the Friday of Memorial Day. Sullivan has pushed to have Thanksgiving week off due to the poor attendance numbers that week, especially for higher grade levels. He said it doesn’t seem productive to have 33% of students from seventh grade up missing due to deer hunting.
However Sullivan said in light of the support from staff, administration backed away from supporting the alternative plan and instead are endorsing the staff-driven plan. One of the major concerns with all grade levels ending at the same time is with scheduling for end of year field trips and other activities. “It is hard to find busses and drivers,” Sullivan said of the conflicts between sports and other activities.
Board president Dave Fleegel noted that in practice, it is unlikely that there would not be any snow days. He said usually there are some that have to be made up, even with having two built into the schedule.
Board member Brian Hallgren supported the calendar presented by Sullivan and suggested the board give him greater authority to set the calendar in future years. “We grind on this damn calendar every year,” Hallgren said, suggesting that the board give Sullivan the direction to set a two year calendar.
Sullivan said he could do that, but would want a list of parameters for example if the board wanted a full week for spring break or being done at Memorial Day. State law sets the first day of the school year at September 1. Fleegel noted that with September 1 being on a Tuesday in 2020 it would be a good year to push to see what would happen if they started earlier. The law is vague about what would happen to a district for not following it.
“Let’s see who goes to jail, the superintendent or the board president,” Sullivan said. District finance director Audra Brooks cautioned that the state would likely take aid payments away if they attempted to violate the law.
While the law says districts can’t have mandatory school days before September 1, some districts hold summer school classes in late August. Sullivan said he was not in favor of having voluntary attendance days noting that without bussing many students would not come and that teachers would have to review everything that was done that day for students not there.
In the end, the board approved the calendar with the last day on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. There will be additional discussion at future meetings on setting parameters to allow for the development of multi-year calendars.
In other business, board members:
_ Reviewed a video that will be on the district website to educate residents about why the district is looking at the high school and summarizing the listening sessions held earlier this fall. The videos are available at www.medford. k12.wi.us.
_ Approved setting up a Fund 46 trust account and transferring $5,000 into it. The Fund 46 account is a designated savings account for long-term facility improvement expenses. The district can add money to the fund at any time, but will not be able to take money out of it until 2024. The benefit of the fund over simply using the already existing fund balance account is that any money the district puts into Fund 46 is treated by the state as money spent for that year for state aid purposes. With traditional fund balance, the state does not aid the balance amount until it is spent. The Fund 46 will be set up at Forward Bank in Medford. There was discussion if a policy needed to be established regarding how it can be spent. Fleegel said he did not think a policy was necessary because it is governed by Department of Public Instruction (DPI) rules.
_ Recognized Kathy Schumacher as the Taylor County Educator of the Month. Schumacher had been unable to attend the November board meeting and was recognized this month.
_ Reviewed the resolutions for the Wisconsin Association of School Board (WASB) convention next month. The WASB’s delegate assembly votes on advisory resolutions that help legislators and the DPI set policy. Paul Dixon serves as the district’s voting representative in the delegate assembly.