The Mancos school board considered shortening school breaks and changing graduation dates during a work session before its regular meeting Tuesday night.
The debates came up while board members honed in on the starting and ending dates for the 2019-20 calendar, and the overall functioning of the four-day school week.
Brian Hanson, superintendent of the Mancos School District RE-6A, said high school students – in particular, students taking classes at Fort Lewis College, Pueblo Community College or San Juan College in Farmington – want to end the first semester before the two-week winter break.
“If they’re coming back to finish classes here ... that is an issue,” Hanson said. “And we have a pretty good percentage of our high school kids, juniors and seniors going to concurrent enrollment.”
Directors agreed, and board secretary Pamela Coppinger added no one wants final exams hanging over their winter holiday.
Hanson also was concerned that the district’s early start in August would cut short teachers’ summer break. He suggested shortening other breaks throughout the school year.
This year, school kicked off on Aug. 13.
Overall, board members stated that breaks during the school year were more important than a later start date.
“If we’re talking about shaving stuff off Thanksgiving or Christmas, I think that most teachers would prefer to have the earlier start,” said treasurer Ed Whritner.
Coppinger added that historically, before Thanksgiving became a weeklong break, absenteeism increased because families took a longer break anyway.
Board president Blake Mitchell argued for a later start because classes might conflict with late-summer events such as the Montezuma County Fair.
Discussion about a graduation date centered on a possible scheduling conflict with the state track and field championships. Board members did not come up with a definite plan.
Board members also asked for an update on how the district’s four-day school week worked last year, its inaugural year, and how it affected academics.
While he didn’t have data on hand, Hanson said student achievement and student and staff attendance improved last year, but he couldn’t conclude if that was due to the shorter week.
“Staff members I’ve talked to absolutely love it,” board vice president Boe Hawkins said.
Other businessDuring the regular portion of Tuesday’s meeting, fourth-grade teachers Staci Greenlee and Rachel Showalter presented some of their class activities, as part of the district’s focus on project-based learning.They focused on their recent “Save the Bats” project – inspired by a live bat discovered in the school – and an outer-space project. The space project includes a “rover drop” this week that will test students’ contraptions designed to house and protect space travelers, aka eggs.
“We need our kids to dive a little bit deeper,” Showalter said. “We’ve been teaching a long time, and the traditional way is not working in classes right now. The kids are different; they need to dive into it differently.”
Representatives with the Montezuma County School to Farm Project also presented. While the campuswide construction project has disrupted their outdoor gardening work, Hanson said, they nevertheless have continued operating within classrooms.
The group’s executive director Gretchen Rank said that they are not in a rush to build out the gardens, and that 2019 would involve a lot of planning.
She and fellow presenter Ben Wolcott, of the Mancos Conservation District, also advertised summer internship opportunities for students being offered by the Southwest Conservation Corps.
In his report to the board, Hanson brought forward a request by the agriculture programming staff to use welding and shop spaces for agricultural projects, rather than duplicating welding instruction that is offered at nearby Pueblo Community College.The board received a construction tour and update from owner’s representative Monty Giles.Giles said that the district has spent just under $9.5 million on the $25 million project, which is being funded primarily by a Building Excellent Schools Today grant.
Hanson joined in, adding that they had recently realized the need to limit adjustments based on individual preferences and trust the consultants to do their job.
However, he also said they should try to use all the grant funds.
“My philosophy is, at the end of this project, we’re not turning any money back to BEST,” he said.
Hanson also updated the board on the search for a new high school principal. The job will be posted in early March, he said, and the district will accept applications throughout the month.He said he hopes to settle on the final candidate by the second week of April.
Hawkins, who represents Mancos on the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, announced that the BOCES office was moving from Dolores to Cortez. Moving to the new space would save $100 per month, he said.The board approved hiring Randy Johnson as assistant basketball coach and buying a Kubota tractor to help with snow removal on firstname.lastname@example.org