One day each week during the 2021-2022 school year might be a bit shorter for Marshall School District students after administration asked the school board to consider a 2:15 p.m. release for every Monday.
Superintendent Dan Grady presented the idea during the May 19 school board meeting. No action was taken. It was the first time the information was being shared with the elected officials, who are expected to make a decision at the June 16 meeting.
Grady said administration and building leadership has been working to identify the “big rocks … what are those important pillars that we make sure to schedule learning around.” Several areas had been identified including literacy, math, social/emotional learning and staff wellness.
The superintendent said the district is looking to create the professional development calendar for the upcoming academic year. Marshall has already set aside professional learning time on the first and second Wednesdays and has five non-student days for professional learning for 2021-2022, but “we need more time,” Grady said. “That is a very large need.”
The professional learning time expands beyond meeting with colleagues teaching classes at the same grade level to staff members who teach the same subject matter. Grady said the district does not have a strong structure for hosting meetings among employees who teach the same subjects at different grade levels.
In an effort to find more available time for professional learning, the superintendent wants the board to consider having a 2:15 p.m. release every Monday during the upcoming school year.
Grady said the idea of having an early dismissal to offer additional professional learning time has been something brought up in conversation since he started in the district three years ago. But it was not until now that he felt the district was ready to bring forward the recommendation to the board.
The superintendent acknowledged the early dismissal could cause some challenges.
“What would that mean for kids who are staying afterschool for activities,” Grady said.
This is a current challenge for the middle school track participants, he said, since the school is dismissed daily at 2:30 p.m. and practice does not start until after 3 p.m. Grady said the district has found ways to support those impacted students until practice starts.
“We’ve looked into this as a district – do buildings need to adjust their start times because you need X amount of minutes with students,” the superintendent said. “We’d also be looking at, most likely, probably on that Monday dismissal a single p.m. bus route.”
Board Treasurer Allison Fuelling said the weekly early dismissal could tack on extra stress to families, who have already gone through a lot of disruptions during the pandemic.
“Would this provide time (for professional learning)? Yes,” Grady said. “Would it cause inconvenience? Undoubtedly. Are there ways we can help the community plan and provide for childcare? Giving advance notice will certainly be one of those ways. … It’s also very much needed in the planning and to become stronger academic teachers that we desire to be.”
If approved, Marshall would not be alone in having early dismissal; Watertown public schools have a 2p.m. each Wednesday to allow weekly staff collaboration time and the Madison Metropolitan School District has early student dismissal for all schools on Monday.
Other board action:
• The district will continue to require students, staff and visitors to wear face coverings while inside school facilities through the last day of school, which is June 4, two days after the Dane County mask mandate and gathering limits are lifted. Masks will also continue to be required on school buses for the remainder of the school year.
Grady suggested the board start to consider how it wants to handle masking for summer school, which begins June 14. He expects there to be updated guidance on the topic from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and CDC before the start of summer school; as of the meeting, both organizations encouraged schools to continue masking requirements through the end of the current school year.
• Discussed but did not act on the 2021-2022 Schedule A proposal from GoRiteway for transportation services.
• Approved the summer school contracts and 2021-2022 teaching and support staff handbooks.
• Recognized retiring district staff and outgoing school board members. Those lauded were staff members Suzanne Kuhlow, Clark Bliske, Dianne Heffron, Sara Kerwin, and Gerri Hansen, and board members Paul Wehking, Bonnie Clayton and student representative Chase Zimmerman.