Archive for Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baldwin students to start school two days early this fall

Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education

Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education

January 22, 2014

The Baldwin school board voted 4-2 on Tuesday to start school two days early next school year to help equalize the fall and spring semesters.

The vote comes seven months after the board agreed to shorten the school year by five “student-contact days.” With that decision, schools opened five days later in August for the 2013-2014 school year.

The calendar change was one of the cost-cutting measures the board made because of 2013-2014 budget constraints. It was estimated the change cut the district air-conditioning costs by $20,000.

But it also made the spring semester eight-and-a-half days longer than the fall semester. Although that didn’t make much difference at the lower grade levels, it did have consequences at his school, Baldwin High School Principal Rob McKim said.

The first concern was the short August timeframe juniors and seniors had sign up for college courses offered at the school before enrollment deadlines, he said. There were ways around that, but another issue was that the shorter fall semester didn’t allow enough class time to cover all the course material. McKim said that was of particular concern in the college courses.

“I had teachers in the office saying, ‘I’m not where I need to be with my class,’” McKim said. “We knew it was coming, but it really hit home in December.”

The board quickly rejected other options, including carrying the first semester past the holiday break and adding the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

The decision came down to not changing the calendar or starting school two days earlier and ending it two days later in the spring. The four board members in favor of the change agreed with Greg Kruger that it was best for the students. Board members Nick Harris and Sandy Chapman voted against the change.

Chapman, who was among the board members who negotiated the shorter school year with the local teachers’ union, the Baldwin Educational Association, suggested the district keep the calendar as is and see how the teachers adjusted. The shorter fall semester only affected a minority of students in the district, she said, noting the district would be giving away some of the savings it realized from the shorter school year.

The calendar change wouldn’t be subject to the teachers’ approval, Superintendent Paul Dorathy said, because their contract is based on number of school days, not the start and end of the school year.

With the change, the first day of school in August 2014 will be Aug. 14. The last day of school will be May 19.

In other business, the board:

• Agreed to distribute health insurance rebates to district teachers in February. District financial operations director Cynde Frick said the rebates from Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas were made because district teachers used health insurance less than expected. The insurance company wouldn’t reveal the amount of the refund until all districts had been informed, she said.

• Agreed to end charging a 2 percent administrative fee for processing premiums of retired teachers who opt to stay on the district’s health insurance plan until they qualify for Medicare.

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