The Jefferson City School District Board of Education voted Monday to not proceed with the district’s weekly early release day proposal at this time.
The board approved the rest of the 2021-22 school calendar, including the first day of school, last day of school, weather make-up days and breaks.
The first day of school is Aug. 23, and the last day is May 24. Weather make-up days are May 25, May 26, May 27, May 31, June 1 and June 2.
Thanksgiving break is Nov. 24-26, winter break is Dec. 20-31, and spring break is March 28 through April 1.
The district had proposed weekly 70-minute early release days on most Mondays to allow for more staff professional development time. At the meeting, about 15 staff members gave a presentation advocating for the early releases.
Treasurer Ken Enloe, who made the motion to approve the calendar with the exclusion of the weekly early release days, said he’s in favor of the weekly early releases, but he was concerned the plan had too many uncertainties and wasn’t fully vetted.
“Moving as quickly as we have, there’s a lot of unanswered questions in our community and our constituents that is going to cause, I think, some pushback, resistance,” Enloe said.
Enloe and board members Lindsey Rowden and Stephanie Johnson expressed concerns about 70 minutes a week not being enough for professional development.
“What I hear from our staff is that they need more time, and I absolutely believe that is critical,” Enloe said. “I absolutely believe that the frequencies of the professional development, collaboration time, would no doubt be better.”
Rowden expressed concerns about staff members not having enough time for professional development after the dismissal process, which can take up to 30 minutes, she said.
“My biggest concern is that I don’t think 70 minutes is enough,” she said.
Dismissal procedures may be taking longer this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but we don’t know what next year is going to look like yet, Johnson said.
“We want to give you more than you’re asking for — we just need to figure out the right way to do it,” she said.
District leaders said they were proposing weekly early releases because the majority of staff members said that’s what they wanted through surveys and meetings, but board member Brad Bates said many teachers told him they never received surveys or heard about the proposal.
“I think it’d be a good idea to get the teachers and the parents to have some forums where they can really speak all together,” he said.
Superintendent Larry Linthacum also presented a timeline for a potential April 2022 bond issue to address overcrowding in grades K-8. The district’s K-8 buildings have been overcrowded since 2014, and 11 out of 15 schools have trailers.
In March, district leaders will assess the current needs. In April, they will give a presentation on the pros and cons and anticipated costs of the different options to address overcrowding and how it ties into the district’s strategic plan and long-range facilities plan.
The district is considering several options, including two fifth- and sixth-grade centers — which the district previously considered putting on the April 2020 ballot — two fifth- through eighth-grade centers, another elementary school and middle school, or more trailers.
The district will weigh the pros and cons and stakeholder input and give another update at the May board meeting. At the June meeting, they will share what the ideal model would look like. In July, they will present a draft of a detailed plan for that model, Linthacum said.
The district will gather community input, then district leaders will determine if they can land on a decision by the fall for what option might be on the ballot in the spring.