School board approves changes to ’24-25 school calendar

Published 4:43 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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The Albert Lea school board on Monday approved adjustments to the calendar for the 2024-25 school year.

Included in the changes are an added staff day at the start of the year in August, three dedicated staff development days during the school year and changes so that all students in preK-12th grades have teacher conferences on the same day each semester.

With the changes, there will be five fewer student days for high schoolers and three fewer days for those at the elementary level.

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Tonya Franks, executive director of academics and accountability for the district, said the district wants to make sure teachers have the dedicated time for professional development and the resources to continuously improve their instructional skills and positively impact student achievement. She noted there are also specific requirements statutory and grant requirements for staff development.

Ashley Mattson, executive director of Human Resources for the district, said with that vision and strategic planning they looked at the previously approved calendar and started to recognize inconsistencies between the elementary and secondary calendars.

They organized a calendar committee meeting, which included staff from each bargaining unit, as well as parents and administration, and reviewed the current calendar and had discussions about conferences and professional development. They also asked for feedback through May 1.

The modifications recommended by the committee and ultimately approved by the board included the following:

• Adding Aug. 13 as a staff day

• No school for students Sept. 30, Feb. 14 and April 21 to allow for staff development centered around the curriculum

• No school for students of all grades on Nov. 4 and Feb. 24 because of parent-teacher conferences

Franks said teachers will still have the same number of teacher contract days with the changes, but noted some of their hours will be shifted, such as spending less time on conferences.

School board member Gary Schindler asked if the changes would only be one-time modifications to the calendar, and Mattson said that calendar would then be used as a starting point to strategic planning in future years as well.

School board member Angie Hoffman asked how many total instructional days the district would then have, and Mattson said the calendar would go from 174 student days to 169 days at the high school and from 172 student days to 169 at the elementary schools.

School board member Neal Skaar said as a former classroom teacher, student contact days are dear to him, noting that seven or eight years ago he voted to increase the number of days to 174.

“169 is incredibly less,” he said.

He said while he does not have a problem with the arrangement, he would have a problem if the district continues in the future at 169 days, as he would much rather see higher.

School board member Dave Klatt, another former classroom teacher, asked what the minimum contact days were that needed to be in place, to which administrators said it is 165.

“We’re getting mighty close to that,” Klatt said.

He said more is being done in schools these days with preparation for life skills and other things that it is critical to have more contact days.

He said he really wants to see more new material accomplished in the classroom after MCA testing is completed and to focus more on quality.

“Quality is more important than quantity, I totally agree with you on that, but we got to make sure if we’re going to meet every kid where they’re at, some need more quantity to get the quality that they need for life,” Klatt said.

He said he was voting against the changes not because he didn’t want to see the staff development but because he didn’t want the students cheated out of more days.

Superintendent Ron Wagner said the district needs to make sure the teachers are properly prepared, especially with a new curriculum coming on board, to meet the needs of each student.

Hoffman said she was voting no because she wanted a parent survey done on the pre- or post-Labor Day start for the calendar to settle the division out there on the topic. She said she did not have a problem with the calendar changes for staff development.

The vote ultimately passed 4-3 with Hoffman, Klatt and Davy Villarreal voting against.