From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 106, Number 8 - February 19, 2009
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School will start before Labor Day

by Mari Muzzi

The Sublette County District #1 school board approved beginning classes before Labor Day for the next two school years, during its February meeting on Thursday night.

“If we go with a starting date after Labor Day, we finish school at the end of the second or the first of the third week of June — that late finish date will complicate our summer school,” said superintendent Doris Woodbury.

Board members agreed that Labor Day falls later in the month of September for the next two years and an earlier start date would prevent school from ending in the middle of June.

Teachers who attend classes at the University of Wyoming would also be affected if the school year didn’t start earlier, since UW courses begin during the first week of June, Woodbury said.

Board members also had ideas for the next school years’ calendars and some felt that Christmas break should be reduced.

“I personally don’t see the need for two weeks, it just seems to go on and on,” said board member Chris Sullivan.

Woodbury said reducing Christmas break, however, has not been popular in the past with parents and staff.

“When we had one break that was shorter than two weeks, I would say we had 15 to 20 calls,” she said.

She said many complained and said they counted on having two weeks to travel and visit relatives.

Woodbury wasn’t the only one hesitate about shortening Christmas break.

“In my time being here a couple of things are always strong, and one of them is the two- week Christmas and the one week for Spring Break,” said executive secretary to the superintendent’s office Sharron Ziegler.

Board members also discussed how long the first few weeks of school should be, but did not come to a decision vote.

“One of the proposals at our elementary school is to shorten (the first week of school) just a little bit and go four days or three days, and then four the next week,” Woodbury said.

Some members thought the proposal was a good idea, especially for the younger children.

“I agree about not having a full week of school the first week — it’s tough for everybody,” Sullivan said. “We could pull a couple days off of Christmas break for this.”

Some were unsure about lessening the first weeks of school.

“Administrators lean towards trying not to break the week up,” Ziegler said. “If you shorten the week then people leave early.”

Students will be returning to school earlier the next two school years, but the length of Christmas break or how long the first weeks of class will be are still up for debate.

Woodbury said she would have a calendar prepared for next month’s meeting that the board could vote on.

“We have not finalized the calendar,” she said. “As usual on a calendar, about half the staff is for it and about half the staff is against it.”

Board member Greg Anderson said before they start reducing holiday vacations they should do more studies and research the details, because otherwise attendance will be low.

In other school board news:

— The board approved a campus pavingand drainage project and a $503,823 emergency generator project.

Some members were wary of the success for both projects.

“How much did we spend for that failure we had at the Aquatic Center?” Board member Mike McFaland questioned the board.

Vern McAdams, district business manage, said that he has received two additional bills for the PAC repairs and they are in the $18,000 expense range from the power outage that occurred at there last month.

“The one thing that we learned is that doing things halfway has come back to bite us in the butt on more than one occasion,” McFarland said.

Board member Jamison Ziegler also cautioned the board about making sure the emergency generators receive the proper maintenance and Anderson wanted a guarantee that both projects would be effective.

“If we’re going to spend half a million dollars on it, we need to make sure that it works,” Anderson said.

McAdams couldn’t provide a 100 percent guarantee for either project, he said he was confident with the engineering companies that will be doing the work.

He also said the campus paving and drainage project would help to solve hazardous ice conditions on the walkways.

“We really do need to do something about the drainage out back,” he said.

McAdams said the drainage and paving plan is elaborate and hopefully it will be effective but wasn’t sure how much the project would benefit the middle school parking lot’s ice situation.

Anderson voted against the paving and drainage project and said he needed more assurance that it would work.

Other board members had questions about the paving project.

“What are we going to do with these existing buildings — are we going to spend a half a million dollars to pave all of this, then turn around in a year or two years and tear it all up because we are rebuilding?” asked board member Mark Pape.

That is what some of the school facilities commissioners would want, board chairman Jim Malkowski said.

The board has already spent a great deal of money to address ice issues on campus, but it’s a matter that can’t be avoided, McAdams said.

— The board also addressed putting a “set” workday in place for its teaching staff. It discussed whether to establish a policy that states the length of day required for staff.

“The pro side of putting a starting and an ending time in a contract is that there is no question about when you are supposed to be here,” Woodbury said. “The downside is that you would have to pay for anything over and above the required times.”

She told board member they didn’t have to make a final decision tonight and that they could discuss it further during next month’s meeting.

“The downside is that you reduce that flexibility,” she said. “My recommendation is no and that we maintain our flexibility.”

The next meeting is scheduled for March 12.

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