BOSCOBEL - What kid doesn’t love a snow day? A cozy break from routine, maybe some sledding and hot cocoa, or a veg-out movie day. (Oh, and homework of course.)
But like snowdrifts in April, those good vibes inevitably melt away, leaving the dull ache of the dreaded “makeup days” in its stead.
This year, students in Boscobel’s high school won’t have to pay for their winter timeouts with a springtime lockdown. They can thank their principal: Pete Schroeder found a way to squeeze an extra few hours of instruction time every week between now and the end of the school year.
At the end of each Wednesday, while teachers are in their staff meeting, students will rotate into an hour of “asynchronous learning,” which is simply coordinated virtual or paper assignments with no teacher present. The School Board approved Schroeders proposal at its monthly meeting on March 13.
“There’d be no extra time after school, no added days,” said Schroeder. By the end of the school year, the time would be made up.
Keep it real
The board initially worried about the teacher being absent during the makeup time.
“My concern is if the work is just busy work,” said board member Casey Updike.
District Administrator Lisa Wallin-Kapinus echoed the concern. “No, I don’t want busy work either,” she said. “Maybe practice or leading up to something that will be discussed in class.”
Other board members were concerned that teachers wouldn’t be available for struggling students.
Ultimately, the board agreed. And charged Schroeder with bringing teachers on board if it proved necessary.
The issue of virtual learning came up again when Schroeder asked the board to approve an online day for May 3, when the district hosts the music festival for regional middle- and high-school bands and choirs.
The board and staff had a healthy debate about virtual learning and how that might impact that day, as well as plans for snow-day makeup time. Schroeder stressed that students will have access to either internet or paper-based assignments during the asynchronous learning.
Board member Greg Loos worried about intermittent online learning. “How do we expect kids switch on and off like a light switch to virtual learning?” he wondered.
“Go through the middle school halls during passing time, you’ll see,” reassured Schroeder. “They go back and forth on their electronics like a snap. If we were doing it every day, I would agree. Most of the kids are going to be able to get what they need out of the asynchronous learning. We’ll have a few who don’t, that’s every lesson. We go back to them. That’s what we do.”
Free drivers’ ed
Area students will get a break this summer on their fees for drivers’ education. In the past, students have paid out of pocket for the classes, which are offered through Southwest Technical College.
Under the new plan, approved unanimously by the board, the school district will pay the cost of approximately $120 per person. That cost will be reimbursed by to the school because they can claim the students as “full-time equivalent” summer school students.
“We’re not losing money on it, and we’re helping those low-income students who need it,” said Wallin-Kapinus.
School choice impact
Wallin-Kapinus presented five-year data for students from outside the district who choose Boscobel (OE in), as well as those in the district who go elsewhere through open enrollment (OE out).
Both groups of students have been on the rise, with the “OE in” group climbing by about 75 percent and the “OE out” group by about 40 percent. In number, however, about twice as many students choose outside districts as those who come to Boscobel. This year, the school counts 54 “OE in” students, and 107 “OE out.”
Because school funding follows the student, that has an impact on the bottom line for districts, like Boscobel, who have a net out-migration. For the current school year, that price tag is $468,804.00 fewer state dollars.
A key point in the upcoming school referendum has been to entice more open enrollment students and staunch the flow of out-district migration.
In addition, the board took up the following subjects:
• renewed a contract with SocialMedia4EDU to handle social media for the district at an annual cost of $10,500.
• appointed board member Jimmie Kaska as interim secretary, filling in for Kaye Woodke.
• approved the use of an extra school van to transport the high school softball team and its equipment to Alabama for its upcoming spring break trip.• welcomed gifts from the Boscobel Athletic Boosters ($500 toward an Ipad for the baseball team) and Community First Bank ($150 donation for the FFA club).