Ashwaubenon schools to end late starts on Wednesdays
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Late starts on Wednesdays will be a thing of the past when the district begins the 2021-22 school year.
The Ashwaubenon school board wants to continue what are known as Professional Learning Committees – which involve staff collaboration time to examine student data, plan lessons and create common assessments – but not when they would delay the start of classes like this past school year on Wednesdays with the 90-minute late start.
The board approved an option last month to have a two-hour early release on the second Friday of the month, starting Oct. 8, with the only exception being for February and April, which would be on the second Thursday of the month when these two Thursdays match up to a holiday or scheduled in-service days.
“We feel like this is a very fair compromise,” Superintendent Kurt Weyers said. “It reduces the number of days from 33 days in the late starts to only eight early-release days next year on Fridays for a two-hour early release. There will be no late starts next year in this option.”
When the collaboration time would be held on a Friday, he said it would be treated like an in-service day and staff would not be allowed to take a personal day off.
Weyers said families indicated on a survey they preferred the early release to happen on Fridays.
“We want parents to understand we’ve listened, we heard your concerns, but we still need this (collaboration) time, too,” he said.
Board President Jay Van Laanen said he preferred early releases for staff collaboration time because late starts are difficult for parents.
“I think it’s a good option,” he said. “I really like the idea of meeting on Fridays. It gives parents an advantage and opportunity to start for that weekend early.”
Board Vice President Brian Van De Kreeke said the top frustration he heard from parents was the disruption caused by the late starts on Wednesdays.
Van De Kreeke suggested teachers coming in early or staying late for the collaboration time.
“I know I’m going to get myself in trouble, but if it is that important and that valuable, anyone working in a business environment is prone to early starts or stay late for various important activities,” he said.
Van De Kreeke said it was unfair to families in the district who were affected by the late starts on Wednesdays.
“Maybe it’s fairer to put it back on us as the education community,” he said. “I’m certainly not saying that everyone needs to work until seven o’clock at night. But if there’s something that’s important, it’s OK to work an extra (hour) or stay after (school) an extra hour or two.”
Jill Kieslich, curriculum and instruction director, said some teachers are coaches who would have difficulty meeting for collaboration after school.
“If we want to collaborate around a test or if we want to collaborate around an instructional practice, and we have teachers that are gone coaching, that defeats our purpose,” she said.
Kieslich said collaboration time is valuable from a curriculum standpoint.
“We want to guarantee that every student, no matter which teacher you have, has a guaranteed curriculum, and we want to make sure that teachers have the time to teach that curriculum…,” she said. “If we don’t find the time to do that (collaboration), we will struggle with student achievement.”
Pupil Services Director Tammy Nicholson said many meetings involving special education evaluations take place after school because all the staff members wouldn’t be able to meet during the school day.
Weyers updated the board on the district’s reopening plan by pointing out masks are no longer required on school property with the June 16 board meeting being the first one since last year when face coverings were optional.
“It’s great to see everyone’s smiles,” he said. “We’re not requiring (masks) at summer school, and we’re planning on not having them next fall. Again, it’s a little bit early to make that decision now, in my opinion… The board will make its final decision in August. But right now, we have no plans of having any type of (mask requirements).”
However, Weyers said the district will continue hygiene practices put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“If you walked in our schools, you’ll notice a lot of the hand sanitizing stations,” he said. “Those will continue all of the next school year at each of our entrances…”
To help students who struggled with learning because of the pandemic, Weyers said the district is hiring additional teachers with federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant funds it will receive.
Business Director Keith Lucius said he would like to continue those additional positions beyond 2021-22, but that will depend on what is included in the 2021-23 biennial state budget.
“Their statement of the Joint Finance Committee is: ‘You’ve got this ESSER money, you should be using that (to pay for increased costs in your budget),’” he said. “The ESSER money’s directed specifically for what we had planned. We have plans to do it for at least two years, maybe even into a third year, those may change.”
Dance team trip
In other action, the board approved a request from the high school dance team to travel to Orlando, Florida, from March 3-9, 2022, to compete in the Contest of Champions.
Students will miss three days of school, with the other days being weekend or staff in-service days.
High School Activities Director Nick Senger said the every-other-year trip to Florida will be financed by dance team fundraisers with no additional cost to the students or district, other than substitute expenses for one coach who is also a district staff member.