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Survey shows little support for year-round schools

If the results of a preliminary survey are any indication, there appears to be little support in Franklin County to create additional schools with year-round schedules, at least in the near future.

That was the word recently from Dr. Rhonda Schuhler, superintendent, following tabulation of a survey completed by about 2,100 parents, students and school staff members last December.

The four-question survey was conducted online and some school board members questioned whether that was the best way to gather information since many parents may not have adequate internet service.

Dr. Schuhler said the results indicated there was "very low interest" in year round schools, at least from respondents in this survey.

And, according to the results she presented to the school board, that indication held for parents, students and staff as well -- and seemed fairly consistent across the district.

The issue came up late last year and school officials wanted to determine if the year-round concept would be popular in the county.

Currently the only school on a year-round calendar is Youngsville Elementary which is winding down its 21st year with a year round schedule. Indications are, school officials have said, that the year-round concept has become popular in Youngsville.

"We've had a 21-year 'experiment' with a year round calendar in Youngsville," said board member Tommy Piper, "and it is a high performance school."

Piper, who spent years with the school district as an administrator before joining the school board, noted that the Youngsville community had to be "sold" on the year round concept before the new calendar was adopted.

People like (former board member) Gil Johnson and YES administrators were active in explaining the concept in the Youngsville area and persuading the community that the concept was worth a try, Piper recalled.

Piper said he believes the more frequent breaks offered by a year-round schedule "help teachers stay fresh and motivated" throughout the school year.

Dr. Schuhler said that implementing a year-round schedule in most schools would require a "robust plan" to keep students involved, supported and motivated during the track-out periods.

The superintendent said she is planning to meet with school principals to gauge their interest and gather more information before a formal decision is made.

And school board member Debra Brodie suggested that the district do another survey to gauge interest but not confine it to an online effort which may not reach everyone in all communities.

The calendar issue was one of several items considered by the school board Monday night in a long and essentially very routine board meeting.

The only item that created a split vote was a policy to handle student reassignment revocation criteria.

The new policy will allow school officials to revoke a student's reassignment to a school outside his or her normal attendance area for reasons of excessive tardiness or absenteeism.

The policy, which was approved by all school board members except Piper, allows the superintendent to review a recommendation from a student's school and see if revocation of the reassignment is justified.

Piper contended that the policy violates the consent order with the U.S. Justice Department, ignores medical hardship concerns and makes no distinction between excused and unexcused absences by the students.

Noting that the district now has only 340 students reassigned out of more than 8,500 students and only 15 of the 340 had attendance issues, Piper criticized the policy for creating a policy for 340 students that's different from the policy for all the rest. "It's not fair," he said.

Piper also contended that a far larger problem in the district is parents pulling their children out of school early, disrupting the school day when the goal is supposed to be "bell to bell" education.

He contended that the district should "treat all students the same" and called the new policy discriminatory and not needed.

The rest of the board disagreed and the new policy was adopted.

The school board also learned a bit more about the child nutrition program in the district.

This year, some 58 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches, about 2,739 students.

A year ago, 64 percent qualified for free or reduced price lunches, about 2,959 students.

The board also learned that more students are ordering breakfast, perhaps because the district is offering more choices to students. In addition, the district is working to incorporate more allergen-free and antibiotic-free entrees into student meals.

In the school year ending in 2019, the district served 172,840 breakfasts -- and 429,079 lunches to students.

The board also heard reports on how the district handles head lice problems with students, got an update on its exceptional children's programming, heard a report on efforts to enroll kindergarten students for the coming year, approved a number of policies that had been on the district's website for public review and agreed to place other policies on the website for review and a probable vote in March.

The board held a closed-door executive session to handle personnel matters and emerged to report that it had:

--ACCEPTED the resignations of these certified personnel: Chelsee Cotton-Dunston, Bunn Middle, Grade 6 math; Ian Fennell, Bunn Middle, EC general teacher; Cindy Miller-Walker, Youngsville Elementary, assistant principal; Kaylynn Patchkofsky, Royal Elementary, Grade 1 teacher; Altessa Sostre, Vine Academy, English teacher; Jean Urban, Bunn Elementary, Grade 2 teacher.

--ACCEPTED the resignations of these classified personnel: Brandon Alford, Franklinton Middle, child nutrition assistant; Betty Coleman, Child Nutrition Dept., child nutrition sub.

--HIRED these certified personnel: Destini Davis, Bunn Elementary Grade 2 teacher; Michael Edwards, Bunn Middle, EC general teacher; Latasha Newell, Royal Elementary, Grade 4 teacher; Christopher Oakley, Cedar Creek Middle, Grade 8 science; Katrina Tunstall, Cedar Creek Middle, Grade 6 science; Samantha Wilson, Bunn Middle, Grade 6 science; Crystal Zalewski, District Wide, ESL tutor.

-- HIRED these classified personnel: Stanford John Allen, Louisburg High, non-faculty soccer coach; Milton Battle, Franklinton High, data manager/office support; Michael Collins, Bunn Middle, non-faculty softball; Cordeja Thomas, Louisburg Elementary, teacher assistant; Timothy Walker, Franklinton High, ISS coordinator.

--HIRED these substitute teachers: Marybeth Davidson, selected sites; Kaleena Green, selected sites; Kimberly Howell, selected sites; Nancy Steelman, selected sites; Charles Thompson, selected sites; Julia White, selected sites.

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