A former Tippecanoe Valley School Board member raised concern Monday night at the board’s monthly meeting regarding the corporation’s 2015-16 school year master calendar.
Superintendent Brett Boggs said the board was presented the master calendar at its meeting last month.
Mark Wise, the former board member, said a year ago the corporation conducted a survey on a traditional calendar versus a balanced calendar and no one wanted the balanced calendar. With the 2015-16 school year starting on Aug. 10 and ending May 18, Wise said the school board was “one step away” from the non-traditional calendar. He didn’t want the summer taken away from the students so they could attend the fair or have summer jobs.
Board President Bryan Murphy said the board was not necessarily heading toward a balanced calendar.
Parent and third-grade teacher Pam Smith said her concern is that it was already near the end of April and parents are just finding out that school will start Aug. 10, but they should have been notified sooner.
Boggs said next year was only starting four days sooner than this school year, which started Aug. 14. It also will start on a Monday instead of a Friday. He asked Smith if she thought the extra days before ISTEP would make a difference to the testing.
“I don’t think it will make one bit of a difference,” she said.
An instructional assistant respectfully disagreed with Smith, saying the extra days at the start of the school year would be beneficial to Valley’s ISTEP results.
Murphy told patrons present that this is “typically when we approve the calendar.”
Julie Canada, parent, said the community wouldn’t accept a balanced calendar and the 2015-16 calendar was a trend toward that. She said she didn’t want to see Valley go into a balanced calendar.
“It’s not,” Murphy repeated.
Boggs reminded the audience that the beginning and end dates of a calendar are only one component of a balanced calendar.
Another woman suggested Valley approve its master calendar sooner.
Wise asked if any parental feedback was gathered on the calendar or if they had any opportunity to provide feedback. Boggs responded that many of Valley’s teachers also are parents and they had input on the calendar.
The 2015-16 school year ends on May 18, 2016, if there are no snow makeup days. Any snow makeup days will be added to the end of the calendar. Boggs said the last few years, Valley has averaged six to seven snow makeup days. Graduation is June 5.
Other days he highlighted on the calendar were fall break, Oct. 19; 10 days for Christmas break starting Dec. 21; Good Friday will be off; and spring break will be the first full week in April as it typically has been.
The board unanimously approved the master calendar as presented.
Mentone Elementary Principal Angie Miller and Akron Elementary Principal Chrissy Mills later gave a presentation on the Kindergarten Countdown Camp.
Miller said the camp was an opportunity presented to Valley by the United Way of Kosciusko County. They want to expand the program to all Kosciusko County schools.
The camp is an opportunity for kids without any preschool experience to prepare for entrance into kindergarten. United Way is paying for the curriculum and teacher, Miller said. Mills said Valley will get to keep the curriculum when the program is over, but has to keep data on these students for the next three years to see how they are progressing and if the camp helped them.
Mills also stated that each school will only take 20 students and the students can’t have any preschool experience.
Boggs said the camp was a great opportunity and he thanked United Way for providing it.
Mills stated United Way will give Valley’s teacher chosen for this program professional development, all paid for by United Way.
The camp will run the same length as summer school.
Miller and TVSC Director of Special Education Meagan Wilks then presented on the Mentone Kindergarten Readiness Center.
The center will provide preschool to students ages 3 to 5, as well as child care before and after school. The child care will be provided by the Kosciusko YMCA.
The hope is that with the child care and preschool, Valley will be able to retain those students once they enter elementary school and thereby keep enrollment up at Valley.
Program costs will include teacher salary and benefits, paraprofessional wages, materials and supplies, equipment and staff training and travel. Revenues will come from registration fees, monthly fees and possible grants.
Rates for the preschool will range from $85 a month for three half-days per week, to $135 a month for five full days a week.
Miller said the rates were patterned after those at Claypool Elementary.
Boggs said Valley was entering into it as a pilot program. “It is a pretty expensive program,” he said, and fees won’t cover the costs of the program. The benefits of the program will be keeping those kids at Valley, he said.
The program will run through the school year.
The board unanimously approved the pilot program.
In other business, the school board:
• Heard Mills recognize the school’s student council, Spell Bowl team, math team, spelling bee winner, spelling bee runner-up, Circle the State with Song participants, No Bully Flyers and reading club.
• Announced upcoming board meetings will be May 11 at Mentone Elementary; June 8 and 13 at the administration office. All meetings begin at 6 p.m.
• Approved hirings, extracurricular assignments, resignations, retirements and a termination.
• Approved the 2016 Tippecanoe Valley High School senior trip; 2015 summer school and summer camps; 2015 summer drivers education program; an overnight trip to Munciana Volleyball Facility for the TVHS volleyball team; and a Akron Youth League softball request.
• Approved a staff policy regarding outside activity as presented at the March school board meeting.
• Approved eight Kosciusko Endowment Youth Services grants for Valley teachers.
• Reviewed revisions to the student and staff handbooks for 2015-16.
• Approved the TVSC Wellness Policy.
• Approved the social studies textbook adoption.
• Reviewed a food service code of conduct. The board will be asked to approve it at its May meeting.
• Approved a contract with Bowen Center for the Student Assistance Counseling Program.
• Approved a tree planting project at the high school.
(Story By The Times Union)