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Morris school board debates when to end the school year

Sending students back to school for one day, on the day after Memorial Day, was a sticking point for the Morris Area School Board when they were asked to approve the school calendar. The board members really wanted to end the school year in 2021 and 2022 on the Friday before but they just couldn’t seem to find a way to make that happen. Primarily because the first day of school is late on each of those school years, due to the Labor Day holiday later than usual.

Supt. Troy Ferguson presented the school calendar for the next two school years for the board approval. A committee consisting of administrators, faculty and staff had met to come up with the calendar. One of the primary recommendations was to change the late starts in the mornings to early outs in the afternoons. The committee also recommended removing the January conferences. 

The calendar calls for 181 teacher days which corresponds with the master contract. There will also be 172 student contact days. Without any other changes from the current year, this would make graduation on May 28 in 2021 and May 27 in 2022. The calendar then calls for students, excluding seniors, to return to class for the last day of school on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 and Tuesday, May 31 2022, both one day after Memorial Day.

The board members discussed various options to avoid this including trying to start earlier, lengthening the day, or having school on either Good Friday or Easter Monday. Ferguson stated that it is a very complicated process to apply to the state in order to start before Labor Day and very few requests are approved. Board members were hesitant to change the school day and plan classes for the Easter holidays since these are often used for snow make-up days.

One suggestion was to actually extend the school year for a few more days during that last week and maybe give extra days off for a spring break. However, this could affect the quarters and how many days are in each one. 

It was stated that having the students come back for that one day after the holiday was perhaps a waste since not much gets done. However, there will always be a last day of school, which is usually a day set aside for awards, games and organization.

“Every day we have our kids in front of our teachers, is a good day,” stated Ferguson.

After twenty minutes of discussion, the board members agreed to go with the committee recommendation and approved the school calendars. This does not mean that it can not be changed in the future but will give parents and staff a guideline for the school years.

Stephan Lilenjest talked to the board on behalf of the American Indian Parent Advisory Committee. He stated that things have definitely improved and communication is much better than one year ago. A planned presentation by Kevin Locke for Feb. 12 had to be cancelled due to bad weather. He is a world-renowned hoop dancer who will provide a message about unity, peace, and culture. This presentation will be rescheduled for a later date.

The board accepted over $15,000 worth of donations in materials and programs. They thanked the generous donors.

Board members gave brief reports on programs and trainings they attended during the Minnesota School Board Conference in January.

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