Parents mixed on year-round Kingman school calendar

Roger Jacks

Roger Jacks

KINGMAN - The parents of Kingman Unified School District students who attended Wednesday's town hall meeting on possible changes to the school year calendar were just as conflicted about the idea as the KUSD Governing Board.

The governing board is considering moving the district from a traditional schedule with a one-week break in the winter and spring and a nine-week break in the summer to a 45 days on, 10 days off schedule.

"I don't think a year-round schedule is a bad thing, but with the changes the district is going through now with the new state standards, why are we doing this now?" asked parent Ashley Baldwin.

What happens to kids who attend camps or events at the Boys and Girls Club or the Kingman Parks and Recreation Department in the summer or over the winter break? What about parents who share custody of a child? she said.

"There's so many details," she said.

Under the new schedule, students would have a two-week break in the spring, fall, a regular winter break and a six-week break in the summer, said Jeri Wolsey, KUSD's curriculum director. The longer breaks would allow the district to offer longer tutoring or enrichment sessions for students who want the help or want to go the extra mile.

Both schedules have 180 days. They're just arranged differently, she said.

One man asked how the schedule would affect students taking summer classes at Mohave Community College.

KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks said the district has already been in contact with MCC, the Kingman Boys and Girls Club and the Kingman Parks and Recreation Department and he was positive they could work something out.

"Bullhead is already in the process of moving to a 45/10 school year and they've had some success working with MCC," he said.

Robert Jones asked who would teach or tutor the students during those intercession breaks. He wondered what would happen when a student has a different teacher than his regular teacher during the intercession.

Wolsey explained that the district hires a number of teachers from the different schools to teach at summer school. The teachers are usually paid a stipend. The district would do the same thing during the intercession.

Mary Jo Hammond, a teacher at La Senita's Little Explorers program, said different teachers have different ways of teaching a subject.

"Sometimes a fresh face is better. They can reach the student in a different way, one the student might understand better," she said.

Another parent asked about how the change would affect the district's budget.

Wolsey said the impact to the budget wouldn't be that great.

The district would need to hire approximately 40 percent of its teachers to work during the intercessions. The money to cover that expense would come from the district's Title I and Title II funds, and some grants the district already gets.

Title I funds are federal dollars for school districts with a large number of low-income students. The money is used to support tutoring and other programs designed to help kids stay in school.

Title II funds also come from the federal government and are used to support teacher and principal training and recruitment efforts.

KUSD Human Resources Director Chris Nutt explained that the district might scale back the amount of money it uses from the Title I and II funds to provide before and after school tutoring to pay for tutoring during the intercessions.

A woman asked if it would be mandatory for students who were falling behind to attend tutoring during the intercession breaks.

Nutt said that students would be highly encouraged to attend the sessions but it was not mandatory and attendance would not be taken. However, kids who don't take advantage of that extra help could find themselves failing at the end of the school year and may not be promoted to the next grade level.

Kingman High School Principal Patrick Carey said he thought the intercessions were a great opportunity for students to catch up on missing assignments and get some extra help. Students who fall behind in the first semester of the school year can get discouraged and quit, he said.

"If we can catch them before the end of the first quarter, we can give them new life and new hope," he said.

Ron Bahre, a teacher at Kingman Middle School, supported the traditional school calendar.

Under the traditional calendar, students are getting nearly constant instruction, he said. The intercession breaks in the new calendar aren't going to be much help unless the district can force those kids who need the extra help to attend tutoring classes.

"We're talking about losing two weeks of instruction every nine weeks. This is only going to perpetuate the problem," he said.

If the district offered enrichment camps, such as a technology or sports camp, during those breaks it might help, Bahre said.

The district also has to entice the best teachers to teach during the intercession in order for this to work, he said.

"Do we have the money to do that?" he said.

Jacks said the governing board is already looking at ways to save money from next year's budget to increase teacher salaries.

Other parents asked about transportation to and from the school during the intercession and the reduced breakfasts and lunches that some students get.

Jacks said the district would provide transportation and meals for students who were attending the intercessions.

"We're doing this to find something better for the district," said Andrea Delong, the district's special projects coordinator. "The traditional way is not really working. We want our students to be the best they can be."

The traditional method of tutoring students before or after school isn't working for a number of reasons, Delong said. Students aren't coming in because they don't want to be there, or they have to baby-sit a younger sibling, or parents didn't have the means to transport the student.

"(Tutoring) has to happen during the normal school day," she said. "We're creating added time for students that need it during a time that works for them."

Benjamin Grant, a math teacher for the Colorado River Unified School District, said his school recently switched to the 45/10 school calendar, but had to get a grant from the state to help cover the cost. However, some kids were left out because the grant could only be used to help students who weren't passing the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards tests, he said.

The school changed the way it taught students in order to reach all of those in need of help, he said. Teachers are given eight days to teach a concept, the students are tested on the ninth day and then the teacher takes one day to re-teach what students may have missed.

The technique seems to work, Grant said.

KUSD board members and administrators seemed intrigued by the teaching method.

In the end, all three board members who attended the meeting, - Laurie Voss Barthlow, Debbie Francis and Bruce Ricca - said they liked the idea of the 45/10 calendar but had a lot of concerns about it and wanted more information.

The next town hall meeting on the proposed calendar is at 6 p.m. Jan. 7 at Hualapai Elementary School, 350 Eastern St.

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