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March 18, 2014

Greater Clark may extend school day

Vote set for tonight; move could cause transportation issues for other districts

JEFFERSONVILLE — Extending the school day for Greater Clark County Schools could cut back how far they go into summer, but it could add headaches for neighboring districts.

The district’s board of trustees approved to extend the school day for 45 minutes starting April 7 and ending May 9. The measure would shave three snow makeup days off the end of the school year. Instead of finishing the year on June 11, students will finish on June 6.

Andrew Melin, superintendent, said the purpose wasn’t to get students out faster, but to give them more preparation for ISTEP+, end of course assessments and other high-stakes tests.

“I will tell you that my recommendation tonight is not coming to you because I believe we need to have our students out earlier,” Melin said. “The primary reason is that we need to be competitive with area school systems that have all made adjustments to their calendars, including extending the hours of their school day.”

No districts in Clark or Floyd counties have extended their school days, but most are using days from their second week of spring break to make up lost time.

Greater Clark lost 10 snow days to what Melin called “the most unique” winter weather for the region in years. They also dismissed early two days and had two morning delays.

The state board of education told school districts they could make up snow days by tacking on time to the end of their school days, with six hours equating to one full day.

Melin said tacking the extra time on to the school days and providing intervention for students during intersession should have a positive outcome for ISTEP scores.

Frank Denton, president of the Greater Clark Education Association, said it’s important to add those instructional days now, especially with more testing on the way.

“The idea is we have high-stakes tests coming up for the kids and it won’t do us any good to be teaching at the end of the year,” Denton said. “We need to teach them now before those tests come up so they have instructional time before those high-stakes tests.”

But Clarksville Community Schools and West Clark Community Schools also participate in a special education co-op with Greater Clark.

Since those students are taught in Greater Clark but transported by their home districts, those bus drivers may be in the middle of a route by the time they’re dismissed.

Kim Knott, superintendent at Clarksville Community Schools, said in an email that they’ll have to come up with a fix for those students.

“[Clarksville] will be forced to create transportation solutions for students educated by Greater Clark but transported by CCSC,” Knott said. “The CCSC bus drivers will be in the middle of their routes just as Greater Clark students will be ending their school day.”

Knott said the she’s tried to get in touch with Melin to discuss the issue, but they’ve had a tough time connecting.

“We cannot have one individual in two places at the same time,” Knott said. “Greater Clark is aware that CCSC has a transportation issue, but the corporations have not yet made contact to determine a solution. It is my hope to have these conversations soon so that a solution can be communicated to CCSC employees and parents impacted by the extended day.”

Monty Schneider, superintendent at West Clark Community Schools, said he’s talked to Greater Clark officials about the possibility of the change. He said though adjustments are necessary, he thinks they can work it out.“In most cases, those kids are transported to their house directly from the school,” Schneider said. “It just means they could be on the bus longer because we might have to combine it with other routes.”

Erin Bojorquez, supervisor of communications for Greater Clark, said Ann Schnepf, executive director for special services, has worked with West Clark to agree on the extended day. She said they’re still in discussions with Clarksville.

Melin said he knows the move will cause some problems for students and parents, but he thinks it’s the best decision they can make for students.

“I do understand and we are sensitive to the fact that this will cause somewhat of an inconvenience for some of our students, some of our parents, we understand that,” Melin said. “But I told you when you first hired me as a superintendent, I’ll bring forward recommendations that are in the best interest of our students and at times, that will be at an inconvenience to some of our adults. This is one of those times.”

He said athletic directors have heard from Melin and if they need to work out their events to start 45 minutes later, they’ll have to figure it out. He said though some students have jobs, he thinks employers will understand the situation.

If they don’t, he said he wasn’t above calling those employers himself.

But the extra time has some flexibility built into it. Principals and school leadership teams will work to develop curriculum and manage the use of that time. Melin said the only stipulation is that they use the time to work on English and math skills.

Denton said since the time is still within the scope of their teacher contract, teachers won’t receive overtime. Rather, they’ll get paid for the time as they normally would.

Tony Hall, board member, said he understands it could ruffle some feathers, but he stood by his vote in favor of the measure.

“There’s a lot of variables involved,” Hall said. “But I think the common denominators are kids and test scores, and that’s paramount of any decision that we make. So I think this is the right move.”

The measure passed 6-0. Board member Kevin Satterly was absent.

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