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School days will be longer to make up for snow days at Belle Plaine

By JUDY SCHLESSELMAN

Belle Plaine students will soon find themselves in school an extra half hour each day to make up for days lost to winter weather, but the final day of the school year will remain May 27.

The Belle Plaine Board of Education Feb. 17 approved extending each school day 30 minutes beginning Tuesday, March 9. The Iowa Department of Education is allowing schools to make up days by extending the school day at least 30 minutes. The district lost seven days to bad weather this year but has already made up three of those days.

Superintendent Bill Lynch said the district added time to the school day a couple years ago and it was well received.

Lynch said he would likely recommend waiving some of the three staff workdays at the end of the school year to vacate the buildings so construction can move forward. He said staff would likely be called back this summer to help move into the new facilities.

Students At-Risk

Lynch’s recommendation to hire science teacher Sally Coleman as after school homework assistance supervisor at the high school sparked discussion about the school’s efforts to help failing students. 

Board vice-president Don McKinney favors the after-school program but stated, “At the beginning of the year, I thought we had study hall tables and intervention and meetings with parents of kids who were flunking – they obviously aren’t doing their work – and I can’t see that any of that is being done.”

Interventions are taking place for at-risk students, Lynch told the board. “That’s the reason we have conferences, and I’m certain there have been communications with parents. This (homework program) is one more thing we want.”

Principal Dennis Phelps said school staff makes many parental contacts. “All aren’t as productive as we like, sometimes we don’t get much feedback or any feedback. That doesn’t mean we’re not taking it seriously. I don’t want anybody to fail, period. I’ll say that flat out.”

Director Jim Pierce said the district cannot make parents care or students work, but it does have an obligation to identify at-risk students before they fail and to use resources to decrease the failure rate. He said student absences and failure go hand in hand, and the high school has problems with both. Pierce said he is in favor of the after-school program, but it is just one piece of the puzzle to improve student success.

Lynch said the homework assistance program is helpful, as would be the development of an alternative school. The board failed to approve an alternative school last fall, concerned about the proposed location at Central Elementary. Lynch said he would like to readdress the issue for next school year.

Phelps said the goal of the faculty’s Success In School (SIS) leadership team is to promote academic growth for all students. He added he wants to implement academic intervention procedures at the high school like those currently in place at the junior high.

Board president Joyce Livermore stressed that while the board is not criticizing what was done in the past, it expects to see improvement through the cooperation and effort of parents, students and staff. She believes following the junior high intervention procedures through to the high school would make a difference.

The board will consider the issue as it continues to rewrite the high school handbook.

Following discussion, the board unanimously approved high school science teacher Sally Coleman as the after school homework assistance supervisor.

Lynch said the high school staff and principal would work to develop the program and let students know it is there to help them succeed.

Building Project Update

Good progress continues on the building project, Lynch reported. Interior painting is underway at Longfellow and the gym roof is nearing completion. Exterior brickwork at the high school is mostly complete.

It is hoped Longfellow classes will be able to move into the new classrooms about April 1 so work can begin on remodeling the present classrooms. Lynch said the district is working out plans to extend the current fire alarm system and provide heat to the new addition so the early move can take place.

Lynch presented cost estimates for an extension to the storeroom at the high school. Pierce last fall expressed concern that the 12-foot addition included in the construction project would not be large enough for equipment moved from the junior high when that building closes after this school year. The estimate for a 33-foot addition is $128,072 compared to $65,388 for a 12-foot addition. While the board took no action, it will consider postponing the addition until later.

Academic Eligibility

Lynch presented a revised academic eligibility policy for grades 7-12. The current policy allows a student no more than one failing grade to participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities. The proposed policy would require passing grades in all subjects at the end of a semester and at the completion of first and third quarter. Ineligibility at semester would be for 30 days, the minimum required by the state. Several board members questioned if the district should raise the standard.

Director Mike Bachelder said, “If we talk about raising the bar in all the curriculum and everything else, I think we need to look at our eligibility requirements, also.”

The board set a work session for Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the eligibility policy and student attendance. The session is open to the public and will be held in the boardroom at Longfellow Elementary.

Iowa Core Curriculum

 

Building head and teacher Cherie Brown gave an update on the district’s progress with the Iowa Core Curriculum, which all school districts in the state must implement by July 1, 2012 for grades 9-12 and 2014-15 for kindergarten through eighth grade. The Iowa Core Curriculum identifies concepts and skills in literacy, mathematics, science, social studies and 21st century skills to prepare students for success in life, and provides staff a guide for delivering challenging and meaningful content.

Brown said the school’s six-member Core Curriculum leadership team continues to meet with other districts about the program and reports at staff in-service meetings. The team’s job is to align what is taught with what the state says students need to learn, Brown said.

Other business

 

Scott Janss was hired as head baseball coach for the 2010 season. Janss coached the junior varsity team five years and will step down from that position.

The board approved a request from Family and Consumer Science teacher Leah Mast for the annual Surviving Single class trip to Chicago April 9-10, 2010. Mast and six parent chaperones will accompany 22 students on the trip designed to simulate real-life experiences of living in a large city.

UPDATED February 19, 2010 4:25 PM

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