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The Dreaded "C" word ..... Change!!


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Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Here it is August already. Before you know it school will be starting, practices will be starting, and our schedules will be more busy than they already are.  The question that is at the heart of education is….

 

What is best for the students?

 

That is what we keep as the focus for all decisions that are made from the administration, coaching, and the classroom.   Quality teachers and resources are essential for students to become positive and beneficial adults in society.

 

The state's KESA (Kansas Education Systems Accreditation) initiative is geared directly towards that. You may be hearing about schools that are doing the Gemini program or the Apollo program. These are schools that are using the space missions themes, for pioneering an entirely new way of teaching. They are doing away with the grading system, they are doing away with a normal classroom as we commonly think of it. The push is to have all schools redesign their teaching by the year 2022.

 

We have discussed this with the board and with the staff ALOT in the past two years, as you have seen in the minutes. We have concluded that many of the things that these other schools are doing … are things that we already do …. just not to that extent. So our goal is to change up (redesign) how we're doing things for the benefit of the students but not so much that it is a detriment to our school climate.

 

With those things in mind, I thought it might be wise to discuss some of the changes at Northern Valley. The one that has been the most prolific of course is the switch to a four-day school week.  This can be viewed on the school website (www.nvhuskies.org) under the heading "2019-20 Approved Calendar" as well as in past posts on the Facebook pages.   Friday is typically the day that there will be no school. However, there are exceptions to that.

 

There are some days where there is a holiday (for example Labor Day) …. So there is no school on that Monday.  We will then have school on that Friday to make up for the holiday. There are a few of these scattered throughout the calendar. Please look those over and mark those accordingly.

 

There are also not as many snow days built into the calendar. The combination of extending the school day half an hour and taking out built-in snow days, allowed us to keep the school year to a very similar length as it is now.  There are two days built into the calendar. Meaning if we have to take a snow day two of those days we can do without any repercussions. After that if we have missed days, we will have to make those up to maintain the 1116 hours Kansas requires. I have marked three possible make up days on the calendar.  It would be our preference that you would keep those dates free of appointments or obligations with the chance that if we do have to make up a day it will not conflict with schedules.

 

#2 Another area we have had to address are the teachers themselves.  How can we utilize the wonderful resources we have more effectively.  Several of our teachers are able to teach multiple levels (ie. 6th – 12th grade).  This is a great advantage, especially when there is a such a shortage of teachers available.  I was told by a veteran administrator that there used to be twenty applicants for every teaching job …. Nowadays, administrators are calling other schools …. Just to see if we can have the names of applicants they did not hire, if there were any.

 

 

By utilizing educators at multiple grade levels, we have been able to overcome this shortage.  I believe that it also gives continuity to the education the students are receiving.  We discovered that if we set up the start time to be the same at both schools and synchronize the daily schedule, this allows the teachers to transition between the HS and JH at the same time, saving time and resources.  The only way for both school days to begin and end at the same time, was to do away with the exchange bus. 

 

Many of the students ride the bus then sit at the in between location and then hop on the exchange bus and travel to their Attendance Center.

 

When the four – day week was being discussed, the extension of the school day was a concern.  Especially to those kiddos that ride a bus (or two) to get to school.  So …. We started looking at this from several different angles. 

 

After receiving route information from the bus drivers, passenger lists, getting mileage from run sheets, and comparing those to time cards ….. this is what we found:

  1. Almena route to Long Island student longest time (Pickup to final destination) = 80 minutes
  2. Almena route to Long Island student shortest time (Pickup to final destination) = 65 minutes
  3. Long Island route to Almena student longest time (Pickup to final destination) = 105 minutes
  4. Long Island route to Almena student shortest time (Pickup to final destination) = 85 minutes

 

#3 This year …. Students will be picked up and delivered to their attendance center, eat breakfast, and go to class.  This may mean that more than one bus will come to your house if you have students in both Long Island and Almena.  The students will have less wait time … and less time on the bus.  We tried multiple scenarios and routing strategies ….. each one bringing us back to … the only way to utilize our staff the way we need to …. Is to eliminate the exchange bus.  I know this is going to take some adjustment time …. And possibly even a lot of patience …. As we transition to this change.   Please know that with your help, we will make it work.  

 

#4 When teachers were talking about how they could be more effective …. one of the things that was noted was the class time. In prior years, class time has averaged 44 to 45 minutes at the HS level. Teachers felt that by the time instruction was given and an example shown….  there really wasn't enough time for students to be able to perform or do assignments. In order to accommodate for that it was suggested to extend the class periods.  Discussions included the use of a block schedule or  shortening the number of classes throughout the day. It was finally decided to do the longer class periods (fewer classes) in the day. So instead of ten (10) periods ……this year we will only have eight (8). Classes will run from the top of the hour two or three minutes before the next, so fifty-seven (57) minutes. Teachers are very excited about this and even though there will be fewer actual days in the classroom due to the four-day, there's actually more time in each class. Which will allow better coverage of the material and allow students that extra time to get work done, so there isn't quite as much homework ( in theory J)

 

Change …. One of the hardest words to try to deal with …. But I think all of the ones we have identified are going to be to the students benefit and hopefully ….. to you the parents as well. 

Sincerely,

Ken Tharman

 

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Northern Valley Schools512 W Bryant StreetAlmena, KS  67622

p. 785.669.2445

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