Joplin students will sit in class longer during the day but will have a shorter school year under a calendar adopted Monday night by the Board of Education.
The 2014-15 academic year will start on Monday, Aug. 25, and end on Friday, May 15, excluding snow days, according to the calendar. That reduces the number of school days in the year to 164 from 174 and shaves more than a week off the beginning and nearly a week off the end of Joplin’s traditional year, which normally runs from mid-August through the end of May.
The delayed start date will give construction crews as much time as possible to finish the new high school, which has long been slated to open in August, and will give faculty and staff members extra time to move into the building, administrators said. The earlier end date, which extends to Tuesday, May 26, with six snow days, is designed to prevent the term from stretching into June, when summer school traditionally begins.
Students, faculty and staff members will still receive three days off for Thanksgiving, two weeks off for Christmas and a week in mid-March for spring break. Other holidays such as Labor Day, Good Friday and Memorial Day have also been preserved.
The calendar also lengthens the school day by 10 minutes, setting start and end times at 7:45 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. for elementary students and 8:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. for middle and high school students.
Current start and end times are 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. for elementary students, 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for students at the 9/10 campus of Joplin High School, and 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for students at the middle schools and the high school 11/12 campus.
The calendar holds some changes for teachers, who will be required to attend 10 full-day professional development sessions throughout the year, with six of those days scheduled in August before the start of the fall term. They currently attend three full-day sessions in addition to a number of half-day sessions throughout the year.
The calendar reduces the number of contracted work days for teachers to 176 from 180. Classified staff members will work 10 fewer days next year.
The changes come as the district switches to building its annual calendar based on the minimum number of hours students are required to be in class during the year, rather than the minimum number of days.
Missouri law has typically required districts to provide an annual term of at least 142 or 174 days, depending on whether they have four- or five-day weeks, and 1,044 hours of student attendance.
Recent revisions to the law allow districts to create calendars with fewer than 174 days as long as they continue to provide 1,044 hours of instruction. Jason Cravens, executive director of secondary education for the Joplin district, said next year’s calendar meets that requirement.
Board member Jim Kimbrough said he was concerned about losing days of student instruction time, despite adding 10 minutes to each day.
“We’ve lost instruction time, but we’ve not lost holidays, we’ve not lost professional development,” he said. “I guess I would like to hear somebody say, ‘Yes, we looked at maybe taking a day off of Christmas, a day off of spring break,’ in an effort to save some of those precious instruction days.”
But a district survey conducted four years ago found that faculty and staff members overwhelmingly preferred to preserve holiday and vacation time within the academic year, Cravens said. He also said putting more than a week’s worth of professional development days at the start of the school year would increase the likelihood that teachers would be more focused and provide better instruction throughout the year.
Cravens said the 164-day calendar is currently expected to be in place only for the 2014-15 academic year.
“If it’s the worst idea we’ve ever had, then next year we can go 174 (days),” he said. “If next year everyone says, ‘We hated it,’ then we change back. If everyone says, ‘We loved it,’ then we’ll consider (keeping) it.”
In other business, the board approved the naming of four areas around the district after notable figures in school district history.
The athletic complex at Junge Field will be named for Dewey Combs, a former coach and member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. The administrative and counseling section of the new high school will be named for Marion Dial, former principal of Lincoln High School and a former Joplin City Council member.
The main entrance of the new high school will be named for Jack Holden, a teacher who served for many years as the voice of the Eagles at sports games. And the gymnasium at East Middle School will be named for Harold Thompson, a former teacher, coach and athletic director.
Board members also approved several purchases, including more than $2.4 million in bid packages for safe rooms at Columbia and West Central elementary schools.
At the close of the meeting, the board officially seated newly elected members Lynda Banwart, Debbie Fort and incumbent Randy Steele. Anne Sharp, a member of the board since 2000, was elected president. Michael D. Landis, a board member since 2001, was elected vice president.
THE JOPLIN BOARD OF EDUCATION met in closed session Monday night for discussion of legal and real estate issues, personnel matters, and individually identifiable records. Superintendent C.J. Huff said the board considered employee resignations and took a vote on a legal matter. Board attorney John Nicholas said the vote could be disclosed as early as today after he has notified the involved parties.