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CCA shapes 2014-2015 school year schedule

Board finds calendar acceptable, not perfect

AMANA– Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School District Superintendent Tim Kuehl readily admits the proposed academic calendar for the 2014-2015 school year isn’t perfect. But, “the perfect calendar does not exist,” he said.
Kuehl presented a proposed calendar at a school board work session Wednesday, March 12, at Amana Elementary. The board will likely approve the final product on Wednesday, April 9, with a public hearing prior to their vote.
The Iowa legislature has approved the practice of schools basing their school year on a minimum number of hours instead of a minimum number of days. Previously schools had to be in session for at least 180 days during the calendar year, which leads to make-up days when schools cancel classes due to weather. Now, 1,080 hours also equals an academic school year. Kuehl’s proposal, crafted with input from district administrators, faculty and others, calls for 1,110 instructional hours, which provides a 30-hour reserve above the state minimum. Those extra hours could be used to compensate for early dismissals and late starts. Snow days, however, would still need to be made up. “This still allows us to function as we have been,” Kuehl said.
School start dates have been a controversial subject in Iowa. CCA’s proposed start date of Aug. 19 is comparable to the district’s start in recent years. Students will get the day before Thanksgiving off and have an early dismissal day on Tuesday, Dec. 23, for the Christmas and New Year break. The first day of school in 2015 will be on Monday, Jan. 5, leaving 12 days for the holiday break.
On Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 19, the district will have a professional development day for staff, and no school for students. While the Iowa City school district ran into a storm of controversy this year when it held classes on the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Kuehl pointed out CCA has been using the day for staff development and will continue the practice.
Board member Eileen Schmidt asked if the day could be used as a make-up day, if need be.
“We theoretically could,” Kuehl responded. He said the adverse publicity Iowa City experienced was a factor in scheduling the day for professional development. Kuehl asked if the board was in favor of holding MLK Day as a potential school day. The board indicated they were.
“We’re not Iowa City,” said both Kevin Kinney and Jim Seelman.
However, the idea did not sit well with the administrators, since the development day, if used as a school day, would have to be rescheduled, likely at the end of the year.
“At that point, I think everybody is ready to be done,” said Clear Creek Elementary Principal Dan Dvorak. “The idea is to have (development days) during the school year so teachers can benefit at that time,” he added.
“If we take that professional day to the end of the year, it’s not going to have the impact that its had in the past,” said Amana Elementary Principal Ben Macumber. “We’ve had some very positive things that have had an impact on instruction, right away. If you give the teachers a tool in June and they don’t use it until August, it’s not going to have as much of an impact.”
A 20-minute discussion ensued about the logistics of moving a professional development day and the implications of bringing teachers in beyond their contracted number of days. The board also looked at cutting into spring break for make-up days. Macumber asked if the district could add two hours to some Wednesdays during the winter, which are already early dismissal days, to make up time lost due to snow days.
Kuehl said it would mean trading some professional development time for instructional time, and four such days would be required to equal one missed school day.
After further discussion, the consensus was to keep the day as professional development.
Under the proposed calendar, seniors would graduate during Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 24, with May 29 the last day of classes for the rest of the students, pending any necessary make-up days.
Overall, Kuehl called the proposal a compromise.
“There are ideas all over the place. This is the best middle ground there is,” Kuehl said. He acknowledged not everybody will be happy with the proposal.
“If we could start after Labor Day, take two weeks off at Christmas, have a week off for spring break and still be out by Memorial Day, that’s what everybody would want… but it just doesn’t work.”