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Time changes made to the school day

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By Robin Bass

Middle and high school students can hit the snooze button and still be punctual for their first day of classes thanks to a decision Monday night to delay the start time by 10 minutes.

When classes resume August 11, students in grades six through 12 will begin their school day at 7:45 a.m. – 10 minutes later than in previous years. Spencer County Middle and High students will also be getting out five minutes earlier during the 2009-10 school year, resulting in a day that is 15 minutes shorter.

“There was some fluff built into the day,” said Superintendent Chuck Adams, “and this is about working more efficiently.”

During Monday’s school board meeting, Adams made the proposal to change start and ending times based on discussions during the past year. Parents, board members, and even some educators have expressed the need for older students to start school later in the day so that their developing bodies could receive adequate rest. In their defense, mounds of research have been presented that showed sleep deprived teenagers were more susceptible to car accidents and lower grades.

Youngsters in the district’s elementary schools will see a change in their schedule as well, but not by much. Classes at Taylorsville and Spencer County elementaries will begin and end five minutes earlier than last year. Kindergarten through fifth grade students will be expected to arrive at their designated school no later than 8:45 a.m and will be released at 3:35 p.m.

Adams said the time changes for elementary students was also in response to concerns in the community. In recent years, parents have pleaded with the board to allow younger children to begin school earlier in the day when their young minds are most alert.

“If it was up to me, the high school would be starting at 8 o’clock and the elementary at 8:30,” said Adams.

However, transportation limitations prohibit such a schedule at this time.

With the new time changes, 20 of the 27 bus routes had to be modified to accommodate a smaller transition window. Previously, bus drivers had from the time when middle/high school students were dropped off to when elementary students had to be picked up and delivered to their schools. That transition window has been reduced to an hour and 15 minutes – and seven of the modified routes have been clocked at an hour or slightly longer.

“I’m all about efficiency, but I feel like we’re going to stress our drivers,” said Scott Travis, school board member. “I think it creates more problem tightening it (transition window) up.”

Adams told board members that while not all drivers are happy with the changes, the “majority of drivers believe it’s doable.”

He expected several adjustments to bus routes during the first few months of school as routines are established and an accurate number of riders is determined.

“At some point and time, we will be adding another route,” said Adams. He stated that it is remarkable that in a district that has grown by 200 student in the last three years still maintains the same number of bus routes.

But for this year, Adams told board members that the district could utilize a van shuttle or give one driver a second, shorter run to get students to school on time.

After discussion, the school board approved the time changes 3-2 with Travis and Shannon Medley voting no.

BEAR CARE PRICES GO UP

Parents who take advantage of child care provided at the elementary schools could see as much as a 12 percent rise in the cost of services this year.

The school board approved sweeping increases in the cost of Bear Care that could generate an additional $9,000 if enrollment remains at May 2009 totals. Add in projected revenue from summer attendance in 2010, and the child care program could net a total of $11,500.

Adams said the “modest increases” would be used to prevent another budget deficit like the one experienced at the end of the fiscal year in June 2009. Even though the program was restructured and a staff position was eliminated, Bear Care still ended their year with $14,840 in the red.

And that’s a big problem for schools that use Bear Care revenue to fund a position in the gifted and talented program.

Increases approved by the school board include:

• Parents who chose either after or before school  child care services will see an increase from $40/week to $45/week.

• Parents using both before and after care will pay $80/week, instead of $75/week.

• Preschool prices for a.m. or p.m. sessions will rise from $48/week to $53/week.

“It’s still a good deal,” said Adams of the child care services provided by the district.

Travis made the motion to approve the fee structure changes with the understanding that Bear Care’s financial standing would be re-evaluated at the December meeting. The motion was pass unanimously.

GRANT

WRITERS, TROUT TANKS and more

The school board’s marathon back-to-school meeting covered dozens of topics affecting every school and nearly every department. One decision might even impact city and county government if all agencies agree to work together to hire a grant writer.

Board members were approached by Spencer County Magistrate Bill Drury about the prospect of local agencies working together to fund a graduate student as a grant writer. He reasoned that each entity spends so much time applying for state and federal grants that it would make sense for the community to pool their resources and hire someone devoted to the task.

“This will make all of our money go a whole lot further,” said Drury. The program could even be expanded in the future to include organizations like Main Street, Soil Conservation and Farm Bureau, said Drury.

“I like that it’s a joint effort,” said Mary Ann Carden, echoing sentiments of her fellow board members.

The board agreed to nominate board member Sandy Clevenger as the district’s representative on an exploratory committee to look into the idea.

Bringing another idea before board members were a couple of members of the Bluegrass Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Their proposal involved providing two Spencer County classrooms with an 55/gallon aquarium and all the equipment necessary to raise trout from eggs. Once the trout reached a certain size, they would be released in pre-approved cold streams throughout Kentucky.

Don Thompson, of the Bluegrass Chapter, said that the program would be educational as well as beneficial to stream conservation. Among the areas of study that could be utilized by teachers include learning responsibility while raising the fish, studying stream habitats and the effects humans have on their environment.

Thompson said their chapter has been allocated $4,800 to establish six programs in their district. Jefferson and Spencer county teachers are among those that have already expressed interest in the program.

The school board made no decision on this matter.

Other school board actions taken Monday night:

• Discussion of replacing the roof on the older portion of the high school was tabled.

• A motion was approved to publicize the district’s land requirements for a new elementary school, including amount of acreage and sewer needs.

“I believe it necessary to have individuals to come to us with prospective plots of land rather than us identifying specific plots,” said Adams. His aim was to avoid conflicts of interest from school staff related to or friends with real estate agents or landowners.

• An agreement with North Central Health District was approved for them to hire, supervise and fund a third school nurse for the school system.

• The purchase of technology education furniture for the high school was approved at a cost of $14,725. Other high school purchases approved include: 7 hardwood benches for office reception and the great hall ($1,600); 4 hardwood end tables ($160); 6-foot rectangular conference table ($900); and a 106-inch projection screen ($440).

• A new classified position at the Adult Learning Center was established to help keep the center open year-round.

• A consultant’s position was approved on a trial basis to “analyze data and put it into motion,” said Adams. The consultant will concentrate on closing the gap between all ethnic and sub-populations of students. The consultant fee will be $250 per day for eight days a month.