MAHS school year extended by two days, but it could’ve been worse

The Morris Area School Board decided to extend the 2022-2023 school year by two days for students, but teachers and staff will go longer. For students the last day of school will be June 2 and for staff the last day of school will be on June 7. The staff had a scheduled day on June 5, so this will actually add two days to their school year.

It could have been much worse. Supt. Shane Monson laid out the number of missed days and hours and presented some options to consider.

Before any discussion, he shared the Minnesota State Statute regarding the length of the school year and hours of instruction. It states that the annual school calendar must include at least 425 hours of instruction for a kindergarten student without a disability, 935 hours of instruction for a student in grades 1 through 6, and 1,020 hours of instruction for a student in grades 7 through 12. A school board’s annual calendar must include at least 165 days of instruction for a student in grades 1 through 11.

The annual school calendar may include plans for up to five days of instruction provided through online instruction due to inclement weather. Thus the five e-learning days.

Monson then stated that Morris Area Schools thus far have ample hours of instructional time built into the calendar. With no further cancellations, they are at 167 days for elementary and 168 days for high school. 

After using the five e-learning days, Morris Area still has six days to make up. They will be making up one of the days on Monday, April 10. One option was to add two student contact days on June 1 and 2. There currently is school planned for May 30 and 31, the days after Memorial Day.

Another option would be to forgive the remaining three days or even forgive all of the five days since they have met the state statute. The board also needed to decide the amount of time staff needed to make up which would be different from the students.

There were some teachers present at the meeting on March 20 and they stated that adding some days for staff development might be a good use of the time. This time could even be used to prepare for the next school year so that the staff development days in August are not as busy.

The original plan for the school year was to have the last day of school on May 31. The staff would have three additional days to be used for staff development on June 1, 2 and 5. 

The board members thought that having the students attend for the rest of the week after Memorial Day would be the best option. Teachers would have a full four days of instruction time. As far as the staff schedule, since they are already coming back the following Monday, two more days would be added to that week. Three days would be forgiven for students and one day forgiven for staff.

“And that is a wrap” is what the board members stated when asked about any more potential snow days. This means that any further snow days will need to be forgiven. 

The board members then looked at the school calendar for the next two school years. The 2023-2024 calendar had been previously approved so was amended to change one early out day. The 2024-2025 draft of the calendar would add a day in February as a potential snow day giving the district 7 snow days with five of them as e-learning days.

Monson gave a presentation on a new Achievement and Integration Program that the District is required to be a part of. The Morris Area School District was identified as a Racial Isolated District and will be awarded $126,180.40 in the form of a levy to address racial issues. The district includes 72.2% white students, 19.2% hispanic, 4.6% American Indian and 1.3% Asian. Data collected has set goals in conjunction with the non-white students. These goals are in reading, math and overall achievement.

In all of the test results, Morris Area students are exceeding the state average. The first goal is to increase reading assessments. To do this, Monson stated that there will be a Cultural Liaison hired for the elementary and high school level. The second goal is to support academic achievement and for this goal a Student Success Coach will be hired. The third goal is to allow teachers to have access to adequate training.

The Morris Area district will also be partnering with the Chokio-Alberta School district to do integrated activities. Monson added that the funds received will be used to pay for the new employees and the training,

Board member Kurt Wulf asked about the levy that will pay for this required program. Monson said that it is 70% paid by the state and 30% is local. Monson said that he is very excited about it and has talked to other districts participating and they like it. 

The board approved adding cheerleading as an activity at Morris Area School. There will be a committee formed who will meet and discuss how this will be handled including what sports the cheerleaders will be participating in. The sport will be open for both boys and girls to participate and Activities Director Blake Karas said that they will be looking for an advisor. He added that the cheerleaders could possibly support all activities by holding pepfests, making signs and attending state tournaments.

Deann Recker, Transportation Director, expressed her appreciation and thanks to the bus and van drivers who have worked tirelessly on transporting students. And also the Stevens County Transportation Department and Morris City Transportation Department for getting the roads plowed. “They have done an amazing job throughout this difficult winter,” Deann stated.