Hayden school calender proposal adds student days, eliminates teacher workdays | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden school calender proposal adds student days, eliminates teacher workdays

Jack Weinstein

— There's a division in the Hayden School District about how best to educate students.

Hayden Secondary Schools teachers want more instructional days added to the district's 2011-12 calendar. Hayden Valley Elementary School teachers say the status quo is just fine.

Nonetheless, elementary school Principal Rhonda Sweetser doesn't want the district's calendar discussion to be "them against us." Instead, Sweetser said she wants the district to work together toward a shared goal of providing the best education for every student in Hayden.

"We have the same end goal. Everyone's here for the betterment of the students," she said this week. "There's just a difference in the way it looks."

Hayden Secondary Schools teachers Dean Massey and Susan Koehler, on behalf of all the district's sixth- to 12th-grade teachers, proposed to the School Board last week a change to the typical school year calendar, which starts after Labor Day and ends by Memorial Day.

Specifically, teachers at the Secondary Schools want to add eight instructional days and move the school start date to Aug. 29. Doing so would eliminate teacher preparation days typically held before students show up each fall. Massey and Koehler also proposed eliminating the day off school before Spring Break and two teacher workdays called professional learning communities.

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Massey and Koehler said the addition of eight days was intended to provide teachers with more instruction time to increase student achievement.

Jan Owen, who spoke on behalf of the elementary teachers at last week's School Board meeting, said their students were "getting it done" within the confines of the current calendar.

While Hayden Valley Elementary School third-graders excelled on the Colorado Assessment Program tests last year, the fourth- and fifth-graders scored at or below the state average. First- and second-graders don't take CSAPs.

Student success was cited last week as a reason for the elementary school teachers' opposition to the proposal to add eight instruction days to the 2011-12 school year calendar.

Sweetser said the week of teacher preparation before school starts and teacher workdays during the school year are important for staff and for student achievement.

"What works for us is different than what works for them," she said, referring to Hayden Secondary Schools. "We really need that week prep time. We have a lot of training during that time next year and it doesn't work during school. We have a lot of things we need to get done to be ready. And those PLC (professional learning communities) days are really packed for next year."

Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said the calendar proposal has "pluses and minuses." While Luppes said the extra days students would spend in school was a good thing, he expressed concern about teachers losing prep time and staff workdays during the year.

Luppes also said he was concerned with the cost of adding eight days of school. He said the district estimated that the additional days would cost about $1,500 per day, which includes costs for transportation, utilities and food service. That's a total of $12,000.

"We were conscious of the money issue while trying to maximize within our budget restraints what we could do to positively effect education," Koehler said Thursday.

She said the Secondary Schools curriculum committee considered several calendar options before presenting it to the school improvement team, which approved it unanimously.

Koehler said other options included adding more than eight days to the Hayden calendar, which would it bring it more in line with nearby districts. South Routt students attend school 169 days over the course of a school year, and Steamboat Springs and Moffat County students have 172 days of class. But Koehler said adding more than eight days would have required extra pay for teachers.

The state requires that districts provide 160 instructional days with students, which Hayden gets an exemption from because it has a longer school day to meet the state's hourly instruction time requirements. The state mandates 1,080 hours of instruction at middle and high schools, 990 hours at elementary schools, 900 hours for full-day kindergarten and 450 hours for half-day kindergarten.

To maintain those hours, the proposal would shorten the school day by 20 minutes, and class periods would change to 56 minutes from 59 minutes.

As an alternative to changing the calendar, the elementary school teachers suggested having a different start date than the secondary campus.

Luppes said he hasn't yet explored the possibility of the district's schools having different start dates. He said the School Board would consider that, in addition to the new calendar proposal and a more traditional calendar, when it meets May 19.

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