To have make-up days or not

by David Hill
The Board of Education for School District 564 sent a proposed calendar for the 2017-18 school year back to committee for further consideration after discussion Monday night at a Board of Education meeting.
The hang up appeared to be the lack of make-up days to account for snow days. 
The calendar presented Monday did not include any make-up days and only promised to look at E-learning as an option for any days students need to make up because of days cancelled because of snow or other emergency event.
Kevin Ballard, a member of the Board of Education, said he liked the calendar and appreciated the effort made to create it, but said he could not approve a calendar that didn’t address make-up days. He said parents should have an idea of when those days might occur.
The Meet and Confer committee, which recommends a calendar after consideration, met three different times. Misty Hempel, a member of the committee and the Board of Education, said going into the process they had three different goals – establish professional development time, maintaining or increasing student contact days, and providing for different snow-day options. After looking at the options, they came up with a calendar and proposed that E-learning be studied this summer as a possible option to snow days.
Reid Froiland, a teacher at Lincoln High School, said the calendar also includes new structure to parent-teacher conferences that they hope will work better. 
Superintendent Brad Bergstrom said this summer a committee would be formed to look at E-learning as an option.
(E-learning involves using electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside the traditional classroom.)
Bergstrom said, however, there are some concerns about whether E-Learning would work for most of the students rather than a majority, and whether it would work on all levels appropriately.
Ballard said it wasn’t acceptable to change the calendar after the calendar had been approved – at least that’s what he was told at the last school board meeting. He added that if the District is going to put information out there, it should be correct, he said.
But Ballard is most concerned that spring break days would be used for make-up days. Families, he said, make vacation plans based on the calendar.
Some of the members of the Board appeared frustrated by this and wondered what other options were available to the District.
Shannon Boen said extending the year into June would absolutely not be accepted.
Ballard recommended not making up the first two snow days. He explained the number of student days in the District was five more days (170) than the state requires (165), which gives the District some flexibility.
A vote on the motion on the floor, which was to accept the recommendation to approve the calendar, was called and it failed by a vote of six to one – the one vote in favor coming from Ballard.
The recommendation now returns to the Meet and Confer committee for further discussion.
Under the 2017-18 calendar, the first day of school would be Sept. 5, Christmas break would begin with an early out on Dec. 22 and students would start the new year on Jan. 2. The spring break would have been March 28-30. Graduation and the last day of school would be June 1.
In an online presentation last week, Bergstrom said the committee plans to immediately begin planning the next calendar. The goal, he said, is to create calendars for two-year periods. He also said they would be printing fewer calendars this year because several were still in boxes. He stipulated that they would be making the calendar available electronically. He said the electronic calendar would be more up to date.
The Board of Education approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to provide some state funding that will cover all possible abatement costs associated with Enbridge Energy’s appeal of its assessed property value.
(In a story in the April 1 edition of the Northern Watch, we reported that Enbridge pays over $3 million in taxes every year in Pennington County. The pipeline traverses about 14 miles in Numedal, Norden, Rocksbury, River Falls and Sanders townships. Portions of those taxes go to the school district and affected townships.)
Bergstrom explained that Enbridge is appealing its property tax valuation beginning in 2012. If Enbridge prevails, he said, it would have a significant impact on school districts, if school districts were required to repay or lessen the company’s tax burden. It would also impact counties, townships, watershed and other organizations that rely on property taxes. Further more, these organizations have not been able to defend, protect or contribute to the outcome of this ruling.