NORTH CRAWFORD - Calendars (and snow, and floods, and cold, and ice…) and curriculum were the two top topics for the North Crawford School Board on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Starting out the school year with the first three days lost to a historic flood, and then having the first ‘real’ winter our area’s had in quite a few years, the board was faced with making some tough decisions about modification to the school calendar for the remainder of the year.
“We had our calendar for 2018-19 padded with six extra days to allow for weather-related cancellations,” Superintendent Brandon Munson told the board. “However, we started off straight out of the gate losing three days to flooding, and in total we’ve had 11 cancellations, two delayed starts, and one early release, and our padding is now down to just one hour.”
Munson, after announcing there was only one hour of padding left in the current calendar, wryly observed that “we’ll have to keep an eye on the weather and see if we can get the kids to school tomorrow with yet more snow in the forecast.”
Munson reported that the staff has eight days that need to be made up as well. The staff, during the floods and on some of the snow days, had been offered the opportunity to come in to work even if the district couldn’t send the buses out.
Melanie Jelinek attended the board meeting, and commented on the proposed schedule change in the ‘public input’ portion of the agenda.
“I want my kids home as soon as possible in the summer,” Jelinek said. “The kids already spend too much time in school, and I would also like to see the third elementary recess restored.”
By Friday, Feb. 22, after school was cancelled on Wednesday, Munson had already announced yet another change to the 2018-19 calendar.
“The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction mandates that every school district in the State of Wisconsin meet a minimum number of hours of student instruction time,” Munson explained in a memo to parents, students and staff. “Due to the number of cancellations, the North Crawford School District falls well short of those mandated hours. Our staff, administration, and school board have put together a plan for the remainder of the school year to make up those mandated hours.”
The revised calendar, effective Friday, Feb. 22, is as follows:
March 1 - full day - was early release
April 22 -full day - was vacation day
May 3 – full day - was early release
May 17 - full day – was early release
May 31 - full day – was early release
June 3- full day - was vacation day
June 4 – full day - was vacation day
June 5 - 1:05 p.m. early release -was vacation day – last day of school
"This has certainly been one of the most challenging winters in recent memory. We are trying to balance the needs of our staff, students, and families, while making sure we try to maximize the time that students are in classrooms learning and teachers are teaching,” Munson said. “I still believe a solution to this is the state allowing districts to choose their start date, which would allow us more flexibility throughout the year to schedule instructional days. When we're not allowed to start school until September 1, it makes it difficult when we have a large number of cancellations to not hold school well into June."
The teaching staff is going to make up almost all of the days they have missed, but the board decided to forgive them one missed day given the magnitude of flooding and winter weather challenges the area has experienced this year.
“The State of Wisconsin declared a state of emergency during the polar vortex in January,” Board President Mary Kuhn said. “Given that, I believe it would be wrong not to forgive the teaching staff one day.”
Later in the agenda, the board also approved the draft calendar for the 2019-20 school year. The calendar is very similar to the 2018-19 calendar, with several exceptions.
The approved draft calendar calls for full day staff in-services, instead of the more frequent half days that had appeared in the calendar in recent years.
The other big change was in the timing of the spring break, which spurred much debate. Tanya Forkash was worried about how the proposed week would impact student’s ability to practice for the spring play. Melanie Jelinek was worried about how it would impact the wrestling season.
“We have always held the view that once the timing of the spring break is announced, we need to leave it unchanged,” Kuhn said. “Families and teachers plan their vacations around the calendar, purchase plane tickets, etc…, and we need to respect that.”
Perhaps the most exciting change in the school curriculum for 2019-20 was the decision to reintroduce an agricultural education program in the school. A half-time (0.5 FTE) ag education position was approved by the board, with the decision to include a middle school exploratory class, along with high school classes.
Former Ag Education instructor John Gibbs, as well as senior Grace Corlis were on hand to advocate for bringing Ag Ed back.
In a presentation to the board in the ‘public input’ part of the agenda, Corlis told the board, “Ag Ed will be a great opportunity for kids at North Crawford, especially farm kids. Our students should be able to take part in FFA, and if we do, North Crawford FFA will be the best!”
When asked if he wanted to add to Corlis’comments, Gibbs stated that “I think Grace has said all that needs to be said. I’m excited to see the interest, and hope you will approve reintroducing agricultural education.”
Corlis shared the results of a survey of students in grades 6-11, with 98 percent of responses showing support for reintroducing agricultural education. In her handout to the board, she made the following points about ag education:
• provides opportunities to study ag, with a goal of developing lifetime skills
• encompasses all parts of STEM
• teaches work ethic, time management, record-keeping, animal nutrition, husbandry, soil nutrient management, etc
• teaches customer service
• helps students learn and understand how food is produced - students could start as early as K-6
• trains students to take initiative, be leaders, and apply those values to other classes
• encourages students to be problem solvers
• offers workshops, field trips, competitive events and learn-by-doing experiences within FFA and SAE promote development of many life and career skills
Corlis went on to explaing that while the emphasis of ag ed is the agriculture industry, that actually represents a very broad spectrum of careers.
“The competitive and collaborative spirit of the program encourages upper classmen to guide and mentor under classmen to set personal goals,” Corlis said. “Ag teachers employ a variety of standard, project-based and inquiry-based instructional methods that offer differentiated models of learning to appeal to individual student needs.”
In other curriculum decisions, the board:
• added a FACE class in life skills and problem solving, increasing the teaching position from 0.5 FTE (full-time employee) to 0.6 FTE
• added Southwest Tech’s ‘College Up,’ where students can earn technical college degrees while still in high school
• added “technical math,” to be taught by Aaron Keenlance, for students who don’t plan to attend school after graduation but who need to use math in their chosen careers
• added woodworking and welding to the tech ed curriculum
In other business, the board:
• approved a five-year contract with the company ‘Apptegy,’ to update the district’s web site and digital communication platforms
• wished Raiden Steele well at the State Wrestling Tournament
• approved Mike Allbaugh as head boys and girls track coach, with Liz Bransky as assistant coach, and Mark Thomas as volunteer coach, and two other assistant coaches TBA
• approved Anna Davidson as head middle school track coach, with Canisius Johnson as assistant coach
• approved Torrey Kramer as head softball coach, with Jim Chellevold as assistant coach
• approved Joe Ellerbusch as head baseball coach, with an assistant coach TBA