Biting cold has schools making up for lost time
Red Wing public schools closed five times in January due to weather, leaving high school students approximately two hours behind the required instructional time for the year.
With the possibility for more cancellations to come, the School Board voted Monday night to add a student day on Friday Feb. 28 and extend previously planned early-release days on March 4 and 6 as well as May 23 to full school days.
“Knowing that we just started February, the assumption is we’ll have more time missed due to weather conditions,” Supt. Karsten Anderson said.
Staff was already scheduled for a staff development day on Feb. 28 and for the early release on May 23. The March 4 and 6 days were originally shortened to allow time for parent-teacher conferences.
Due to the elimination of the early releases on conference nights, conferences will be shortened from 20 minutes to 15 minutes, something which drew concern from Vice Chair Janie Farrar.
“I don’t think 15 minutes is enough for a proper elementary conference,” Farrar said. “This is a pivotal time of the year where we’re trying to get our kids ready to take tests in the spring. I just want to make sure parents have ample time to know what their kids have to work on.”
The board debated whether to set the calendar changes conditional on more school time being lost to weather and add time to the schedule on an as-needed basis.
Director of Teaching and Learning Joe Jezierski said due to the early release days in March being scheduled for conferences, the elementary teachers needed to be able to move forward with scheduling those as soon as possible.
“The elementary school principals have actually asked for a decision on the conference nights right now for scheduling purposes,” he said. “That is not something they could potentially wait on.”
Teachers schedule those conferences individually to try and meet the needs of the parents, he added.
Even with conferences being shortened, Anderson said, the teaching staff does a good job of working with parents and they will not be confined to a certain number of hours on those days to meet parent needs.
“I’m confident the teaching staff will step up to make sure the parents are taken care of,” he said.
A survey was sent to parents asking them what they thought was the best solution to making up lost instructional time, which returned 869 responses, Anderson said. The results of the survey concurred with the recommended motion – which the board approved – put together by the administrative team, he said.
Currently, the elementary school students and middle school students would not need any additional instructional time if the district finished the year without more cancellations.
Other options included converting Presidents Day to a school day, the first day of spring break to a student day, April 21 to a student day, or lengthening each student day to meet the minimum standards.