School board gets first look at 2019-20 school year calendar

The Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees got its first look at the proposed 2019-2020 school calendar at its regular meeting Monday, Feb. 12.

Huntington North High School Principal Russ Degitz, representing the calendar committee, presented the calendar to board members for its first reading, calling it a “modified balanced calendar” with a few tweaks.

“Spring break was moved back to its more traditional time for the district, as there was some feedback sought from teachers and school employees,” Degitz explained. “From a teacher and school operation point of view, we did feel like there are some things within the building that are noticed after spring break that are maybe less than desirable, in areas of student discipline and engagement. It’s just hard to keep kids at the highest level of engagement, and a lot of schools do note a spike in discipline after spring break.”

Another tweak was the inclusion of an additional snow day, set mid-point between Christmas and spring break. That would break up the long stretch after Christmas break, and the day could be used for E-learning or a professional day, Degitz added.

On the proposed calendar, fall break would go from Monday, Oct. 14 through Friday, Oct. 18. Christmas break would run from Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, through Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.

Spring break would go from Monday, April 6, 2020 through Friday, April 10. Good Friday falls on April 10, a day the district has typically taken off. Degitz said that day is already included in spring break, saving a day with the more traditional spring break time.

Three snow days have also been added on April 1, 2 and 3, potentially making for a longer spring break period if they are not used up on days of inclement weather.

The calendar committee also discussed using Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day more intentionally as days for district-wide service.

The first day of the school year for students would be Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, with the last student day set for May 28, 2020.

Board member Brian Warpup noted that when the calendar was changed a few years ago spring break was intentionally bumped up sooner to help alleviate “student burnout” in the 12 weeks between Christmas break and spring break.

“We’ll go back to 12 weeks, so I guess we’re not really any more balanced with this presentation than we were three or four years ago,” he said.

Warpup also asked if the three snow days could be put at the end of the spring break period rather than ahead of the break to make sure some people do not go on vacation early. Degitz said putting the snow days before spring break would help curb that student burnout. He also said other area schools that HCCSC partners with, such as Heartland Career Center in Wabash also take the same week in April as their predominant spring break period.

“I was just trying to coordinate a little bit, but again, I know that we’ve discussed that,” Degitz added. “This was our committee’s proposal, but like what was done a few years ago, the school board owns the calendar, so that decision will be yours to make.”

The board has already approved the 2018-19 school calendar. A draft of the 2019-2020 calendar is available on the HCCSC website in the Feb. 12 meeting agenda. The board will revisit the issue and vote on the calendar at its next meeting on Feb. 26.

In other business, during a redistricting status update presented by Superintendent Randy Harris, he said the elementary and middle school principals met to consider 340 transfer requests, including requests from out-of-county students. The goal was to keep class sizes at 25 or under. Harris said at the elementary level all class sizes met that goal.

“We did not act upon the kindergarten transfer requests due to the fact that we don’t know what any of the kindergarten numbers are,” he explained. “We’re waiting for Kindergarten Roundup for that.”

Out of the 340 elementary and middle school transfer requests, only 10 were not approved, Harris noted, saying letters will go out to parents in the next week.

“I was very impressed by the work that the elementary principals particularly did. It wasn’t as complicated at the middle school level, but they did a great job on that,” he added. “The fact that we could have accommodated that many requests amazed me.”

On another matter, Harris said Dawn Collins will be retained as the principal of Salamonie School for the next school year.

Bus routes were also discussed, with all routes in the process of being “repurposed,” which may allow the district to drop three routes, Harris said. With bus routes, school start and end times have been reworked to start and end at the same time next year. They are:

• Elementary schools – start at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:45 p.m.

• Middle schools – start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:35 p.m.

• High school – start at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:55 p.m.

Harris also presented a building update to board members, saying the Roanoke School Building Committee has met three times now. He said he expected the building project to be put to bid in June, with the first construction to physically start mid-August.

Board Member Matt Melcher said the details of the process have been “mind boggling,” adding the board takes the project seriously, considering everyone’s input.

“There may be some things that some people may not like. There may be some things that people wonder, ‘Why did they do that?’” he said. “We can’t make everybody happy, and as a group we’re really trying to work together to make sure we get it right.”

Board Member Kevin Yarger said the next step will be developing a rough sketch of the school building and the space needed.

“Now we’re at the point where hopefully it will start looking like a building fairly soon,” Yarger said, adding that staff and public will have an opportunity to offer their input in the next couple of months.

On another item, the board unanimously approved the consent agenda, which included giving administration permission to reduce up to seven middle school certified staff positions for the 2018-19 school year.

The Feb. 26 board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Salamonie School in Room 3. Attendees may enter door 5 to conveniently access the meeting location, located on the backside of the school building.