Trustees postpone decision for community vote on length of the school week

Patrons tell board their feelings on the change

About 100 Aberdeen School District patrons were at the school board meeting Friday, Feb. 22. Many were in agreement and many were in disagreement with the board’s decision to go to a four-day week for the next school year.

The trustees held a closed session prior to the meeting to discuss employee evaluations. Upon convening into open session at 5 p.m. they gave the Pledge of Allegiance and then opened the meeting up to patron input.

Erin Johnson was the first to address the trustees. She said her input was not the same as everyone else that was at the meeting. She thanked the community, the board and the Aberdeen School District staff for their help with the Stem Night held recently. She also thanked the parents and students who attended. There were only six students in the middle school that were not in attendance. She said the evening was a great event and again thanked everyone for their help.

Herb Bohrer was the first to address the trustees on the four-day week. He told the board he appreciated the time and effort they put in for the school. He represented a number of people, he said, and had a petition of 350 signatures that are in favor of a five-day week. He gave the trustees the reasons.

First, the group feels there is no good information on the education benefits on the four-day week. There are no studies on that from the state. Everything they hear is all opinion.

Second, the group feels that all the fiscal savings have been taken care of so there should be no reason to change to a four-day week because of money.

Third, the group feels it is intuitively wrong. In the real world people don’t take days off. They felt that continuity is important for the students.

“We are not a factory. We are trying to increase productivity. The school system is not broken. Don’t change it. You as a board are going to ask for an election on the issue but some of the parents of the students can’t vote. Don’t experiment with our children,” he said.

Kim Wahlen thanked the board and thanked Bohrer for his comments. He asked what the education benefits were to educate the students for only four days a week. China has gone to a six day education week and the United States borrows money from them. Teachers he has visited with say the attention span of students is only five hours and they are gone. He added there is plenty of doubt in the room about the change.

Braiden Driscoll said the board works hard and does the best they can. He added he was speaking for himself and no one else. He feels that decisions are best when made based on fact, not opinion. He asked the board to go back to a five-day week and then get some information about the four-day week. He also asked if they had enough time to get a vote done. He felt the district should have four or five information meetings before a vote was taken so people could be informed about the pros and cons of the four-day week.

Teri Foster said a couple of weeks ago she visited with a young man and he said he felt he didn’t have the right to judge the board or the issue of the four-day week. He had never been to a board meeting and never even visited with a board member. He said teach me and tell me what is right so I know which way to go. She added she hoped that everyone looks at the intent of the board members. They are working for the benefit of the children.

Leland Sorensen said he keeps hearing “we don’t know what will happen, so let’s try it”. But what the district does will affect the students. If the district goes to a four-day week, he suggested going on Monday, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Then the students won’t have the long weekend to lose all their knowledge.

Aimee Elliott talked about a time when one of her children was in kindergarten. They changed the kindergarten and it was a struggle at first, but they were able to make things work out. This will work out. She mentioned the U.S. mail used to deliver on six days and now are changing to five days to save money. The school board wants four days to save money. The board works hard to come to decisions, she said, and she looks forward to furthering her children’s education.

Larry Elliott thanked the board for the opportunity to address them. He said he read a lot about the four-day week in the paper and has been concerned about the controversy in the district. He didn’t know a lot about the four-day week so he and his wife Eleanor did some research on the internet.

“There are a lot of good people on both sides of this issue. What I have is taken from the Idaho Department of Education Web site and from John Murdock, who used to be a superintendent here and is now one in Wyoming. He is doing a study on the four-day week. They are doing it, not to save money, but because of the time they spend in extracurricular activities,” Elliott said.

They have found that student achievement is not an issue. It even goes up a little, Elliott said. Their student and teacher attendance has gone up and the coaches attendance had gone up extremely. As their student attendance has gone up, so does the ADA (Average Daily Attendance). The web site and Murdock told Elliott that the efficiency in instruction goes up on a four-day week. The younger students have the harder classes in the morning and the easier ones, like PE, in the afternoon. They have noticed a more positive attitude in both the students and the teachers. They are able to have more staff development, more time for extracurricular activities and more personal time for doctor appointments, etc.

The savings depends on the school district. Those with larger bus transportation costs save more. There is a savings on the wear and tear on the buildings and each school district has a chance to make up school days missed.

“I keep hearing all these requests to stay with a five-day week but no ideas on how to save money. If we stay with a five-day week, how are we going to save money?” he asked.

Trina Klassen said she has been so excited about the four-day week. She mentioned about her son that was hurt and had to miss so many days of school because of doctor appointments. “If we would have had Fridays off, he wouldn’t have missed any days of school. Currently we are not on a five-day week. This week they were in school only 2 1/2 days. I support the board in their decisions. We love this community,” she said.

Rosalita Rodriquez thanked the school board and mentioned she was representing the Hispanic community. She brought a petition at the last meeting with signatures for the five-day week. She said when the children are not in school they don’t learn anything. She asked the board to go back to a five-day week because the children have the right to learn. She asked why they want to take another day of learning away from them.

Brett Crowther said he has heard lots of good opinions. He worries about when Simplot closes. According to the mayor, they make up half the income of the city. There will be less money then. “If this is what we need to do to keep the school running, do it. This community is a very talented community. We have a lot of people that can help. Education is the number one thing. We can’t make it and educate our kids if there is no money,” he said.

Geni Foster said she came to Aberdeen from a district that went to a four-day week and it worked for her. She could plan around the week. The teachers could plan around the week. Their kindergarten went all day every other day and that helped the kids. The students didn’t miss one day of school unless they were sick. They were allowed to pack snacks to eat later in the day and they had less homework to do at night when they were home.

Trina Ramos said if the district could give her a number they would make in savings and guarantee it and also guarantee it would not hurt the education, she would be for the four-day week. But on a four-day week, if a student misses one day of school they are missing 25 percent of their education that week. On a five-day, they are only missing 20 percent. “If you can show me the numbers, but those numbers keep shrinking. You could save money if you don’t have early out days so you don’t run those buses twice on Thursdays.”

Trustees said they were looking at placing this issue on the main ballot in May. That was the soonest they could do it. That is the same day as a trustee election.

Trustee Marc Foster said the board made a decision they thought was the best for the school. There are many for it and many against it. The success of the four-day week will be through the patrons and parents. Education is the most important thing.

The group asked if a vote was made was it binding? Trustee Ritchey Toevs said there are certain requirements the board has to do but they will try to do what the patrons want. They can’t increase the teacher contract hours, but they can go with either a four-day week or a four and a half day week.

Chris Chris asked if the district went on the four-day week and it didn’t work, could they change back. She was told that if finances became better, they could.

Larry Lankford said he thinks putting this to a public vote would be a mistake. The stakeholders need to be heard, but putting it to a vote is a mistake.

One patron said everyone needs to understand it is about money. The district is broken, they are broke. If they don’t go to the four-day, they will have to let teachers and electives for the students go.

Karl Vollmer said in the February meeting one year ago it was about the money. Now, Jane Ward has admitted it is not about the money, the district can come up with the money.

Ward said it is about the money. The district would need to add on another $450,000 to the levy to get back to what it was three years ago.

“What are we going to save?” Ramos asked.

Ward said they will save on substitute teachers, fuel costs and electricity, so it would be around $40,000 to $60,000. Someone said that is not worth changing to a four-day and trustee Andrea Myler said it is a teacher’s salary. Teachers have taken the cut for four years now. They need to make cuts in other places.

“Happy teachers equal happy students,” Myler said.

Steven Adams said in that first meeting (one year ago) they said the district would save $135,000. They have already saved that with combining bus routes and not hiring teachers.

Elliott said he didn’t think it should be put to a vote. That is what the board is elected to do. He added he doesn’t hear anything from those against the four-day week about how to save money.

Mychelle Vollmer said the board’s main job is to represent their constituents. They have presented petitions with 350 signatures and asked them not to ignore that. If the other side wants to sign a petition, that is good. She said the teachers are concerned if the Common Core can be taught in four days. But the teachers’ signatures are what is lacking in their petitions.

LouAnn Lankford said she thinks there is a lot of misinformation out there. She hates to see the community torn apart with a vote. The trustees are the ones that should make that decision.

Ramos said she has great trust in the board and thinks it should be their decision, not a vote.

Ward said Aberdeen’s modified four-day week won’t be like any other four-day in the state. They will still have the Data Days on Fridays, one a month.

The board members voted for the four-day week for many reasons, according to Ward. They did a lot of discussing of different issues for a full year before they decided to change to the four-day week. The reason they decided to change was finances.

On the modified four-day week, students will be in school for 29 days – from the time school starts until the district is out for harvest. School will start at 8 a.m. and the buses will be loaded at 3:40 p.m. to take the students home. There will be no early outs and no data days. The students will go for the full five days for those 29 days. After harvest the district will go to a straight four-day schedule and school will also begin at 8 a.m. and the buses will load at 3:40 p.m. The students will always be in school for four days each week

The differences in the four and five day weeks were listed on the board. Ward went over the hours and the days attending with a five-day versus a modified four-day week. The tables of those comparisons follow:

Hours attending school

grade five-day week four-day week

K 459 486.25

1-3 927.9 958.22

4-5 957.77 992.99

6-8 968.8 1000.32

9-11 1008.8 1012.73

12 986 1012.73

These hours could change a little. This is on a tentative schedule and is not solid set yet.

Days attending school over the state required days

grade five-day week four-day week

K 6.67 14.54

1-5 11.21 15.68

6-8 13.8 16.66

9-11 4.89 4.99

12 2.95 6.61

When asked about a rumor that was heard that the elementary children will be in the cafeteria for 15 minutes while waiting for the buses, Ward said they will be, but it will be an organized time. There will be one teacher per grade. The students will get a snack and be tutored during that time.

Laura Sorensen said the students are going to lose what they learned because a computer game or the television will be the babysitter on those Fridays. The concern should not be the money, it should be education.

Trustee Elaine Blik said that people say “you are the board” but she doesn’t want a split community. “Do you want a vote? I am all about everybody having a vote. I see my constituents names on this petition. When we voted last spring, I voted no. We cut everything we could. We looked at where we can gain. The big issue here is ADA. Last spring, when they were to get money from the state, we got a bill because the ADA was down so much. If we go on a five-day week parents need to make sure their kids are in school. We have to stick together.”

Valerie Krehbiel said she hears there have been blunders. Have mistakes been made within? If there have, she said she wants a dollar figure. She, as a taxpayer wants to know.

Blik said when she first was put on the board, Irene Barrett was there also. She told her then, that a fiscal cliff was coming.

David Wahlen asked how much more the taxes would be if they increased the levy another $60,000. He was told it would be approximately $56 on a $150,000 house. Wahlen said “Let’s step up and pay the extra and stick with the five-day.”

Marc Foster said, “We are elected and some of us volunteer officials. We live in the community and love it here. Three of our positions will come up for election in May. I vote my heart, my mind and feel I have done the best for my children. I do what I believe is right.”

Terry Krehbiel said the board needs to decide this issue.

“If you rescind this four-day week, I guarantee the levy will pass,” Valerie Krehbiel said.

Teri Foster said this doesn’t have anything to do with the levy. “If we don’t pass the levy then who will educate our kids?”

“That’s the way it is,” Valerie Krehbiel said.

Marc Foster suggested they table the resolution to include a vote on the week length on the May election ballot.

Toevs said, regarding the question about blunders made, they didn’t cut staff as soon as they should have. By not cutting the teachers, they thought it was good for the community, but it hasn’t been good for the school. The accountant, however, in all of his audits, has found no unaccountable funds.

Frank Dye, district business manager, said the district doesn’t get any lottery funds anymore so besides all the other cuts the state has made, they lost that also.

The issue was tabled until a later meeting.

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