In its next-to-last meeting for the year, the Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees opted to permanently hold its meetings an hour earlier and discussed both the school calendar and …
In its next-to-last meeting for the year, the Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees opted to permanently hold its meetings an hour earlier and discussed both the school calendar and possible changes to the district’s leave policy.
The board agreed to maintain its meeting time at 6 p.m., a change from the old 7 p.m. meeting time used pre-pandemic. The board briefly discussed whether to revert to the later time, but the consensus among the trustees was 6 p.m. worked as well or better — even for Kim Dillivan and Tracy Morris, the two board members who work out of town.
The board also discussed the school calendars for both 2021-22 and 2022-23. Again, the consensus was to piggyback on what has been working for the district; the calendars are replicas of the calendars for the past two years, with minimal changes.
“What we have is working very, very well,” said Superintendent Jay Curtis. “It is the right mix of contact days and professional development. It’s been a good calendar. We are just rolling that over for the next two years.”
Contact days, he explained, are days teachers spend in front of students, while professional development days are spent working on teacher training or other school demands, such as lesson plans or work in the classroom.
A happy coordination has occurred on the calendar, though — one that has been a long time in coming: Spring break at the public schools now coincides with spring break at Northwest College. Curtis said he worked with departing NWC President Stefani Hicswa to achieve the timing, but it took the four years of his tenure for the college to shift its calendar to match the schools’.
The coordination will eliminate some student absences that hit when families took a trip or vacation during NWC spring break, taking their public school students out of class. It also ended a situation where some high school students got no break at all because they had to keep up with concurrent classes at the college during the district’s break and high school classes during the college’s break.
Touching on vacation, Curtis also advised the board of changes he would like to see in the district’s leave policy.
One change is developing a maternity leave bank outside the sick leave bank. In each instance, the employee — who first must have in excess of 20 days leave built up — can donate two days annually of their paid leave time to the bank. Then when some other staff member has exhausted their own days, they may make a withdrawal from the bank.
The maternity leave bank would work the same way and would apply to either a father or mother of a newborn or newly adopted child.
“One of the best things for our kids is a healthy family,” Curtis said. “And employees are better when they can bond with their new family.”
Using the banked time, a parent could take up to 10 extra days of paid leave after birth or adoption of a child.
“I think this is something really neat and really special we can do for our employees,” he added.
Unused days employees banked will be prorated back to that employee at the end of the year.
The other suggested change ratchets down on a situation that has had administrators in a dither in the past. Some teachers would stack personal days on either side of a holiday, break and/or weekends to create a time for a trip or vacation midyear.
The proposed policy change would drop the leave taken at one time from five days to three days, with written pre-approval for extenuating circumstances required.
The reasoning behind the change, Curtis said, was that substitute teachers are more difficult to find around a holiday and students are more rambunctious then as well.
The district’s policy pyramid, he said, has at its point what is best for the students, followed by what is best for the employees.
Situations that could qualify for using all the personal days at once in conjunction with a holiday or other school break could include an educator’s son or daughter getting married, or taking a child to a distant college campus for the first time.
A similar change is a reversion to an old policy that disallows leave during the first two weeks or last two weeks of the school year, with the same written pre-approval requisite applied.
The proposed changes will next be circulated among the district employees for written comment. The board will see those comments before it votes on the matter at the Dec. 8 meeting, the last for the district this calendar year.