Spruce Mountain School District postpones decision on scheduling professional development time next year

JAY — Principals at Regional School Unit 73 approved class days for next year, but filed a decision on when professional development time would take place.

Open days, seminars and teacher workshops are the same for Spruce Mountain schools, Superintendent Scott Albert said at Thursday’s board meeting. The district schedule is aligned with that of the Foster Career and Technical Education Center at Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington.

A proposal for next year maintains late arrival days to allow for professional development opportunities for staff. Another is using advance releases for this purpose, which Albert said some of the staff mentioned.

“A few hours would be beneficial compared to arriving late,” he said. “Trying to work in different buildings, an hour is not a lot of time.”

Surveys were sent to staff and parents, Albert said. Among staff, 99 of 169 respondents preferred early layoffs at 11:30 a.m. almost every other Wednesday throughout the year with professional development time to start at 12:30 p.m. The remaining 70 responses were evenly split between maintaining late arrival days and no preference.

On the district’s website, 277 staff members are listed for the four schools, some of whom are cafeteria workers, secretaries and other support staff. There are 1,373 students enrolled in these schools.

Of the 373 parent responses, 165 preferred early release days, 124 preferred late arrival days, and 84 had no preference. There were 71 comments, many of which noted that early dismissal would be a challenge with work schedules and childcare. Some felt that the early release of classes every other Wednesday would be confusing. The impact on co-curricular and co-curricular activities was also mentioned.

Some parents were in favor of early releases on Fridays.

For students who attend the Foster CTE Center, Albert said he has checked with transportation and spots can be set up to drop off these students, as late buses do. He noted that Spruce Mountain High School principal TJ Plourde said many students at the technology center are juniors and seniors who provide their own transportation. These students would miss part of their fourth period class, but there are no concerns at this stage according to Plourde, added Albert.

“We’re not going to cut time at Foster (CTE Center),” Albert pointed out. These students need those hours for certifications and classifications, he said.

A study hall could be offered at the high school if students involved in extracurricular activities have no way to come back for them, he said. Some coaches might be able to start early, depending on their work commitments, he added.

The 21st Century curriculum through the Franklin County Children’s Task Force — already in place for kindergarten through eighth grade — could be expanded, Albert said, program coordinator Doug Saunders said, and some additional employees could be recruited.

Manager Joel Pike said he was all about professional development. One of his biggest concerns is the number of missed teaching hours.

Early versions would result in a loss of instruction time of 33 hours, Albert said Thursday, but in a later email he said his figures were not correct. In an email on Friday, he wrote: “The schedule that has the late arrival option uses 40.5 hours of academic time for professional development. The schedule that has the early termination option uses 50 hours of academic time.

Letting the kids sleep an extra hour midweek was a plus, Pike said. “I like what we have now.”

Manager Elaine Fitzgerald said Turner had made early layoffs for the past three years and she had heard no complaints. She worked with both (options) while teaching, she noted.

“Staff can accomplish so much more in two hours,” Fitzgerald pointed out. In the morning, their heads are already in the classroom, she noted. “Look at it from the perspective of teachers, which benefits our students,” she added.

Director Brandi Galgano noted that there were 20 half-days in the proposed schedule and some months had three. She asked if there was a way to reduce the numbers so that there was less of an impact on parents and their child care concerns.

Director Chantelle Woodcock asked if a two-hour delay would be weird. Parents’ biggest concern is that after school teachers get two hours of professional development, she said.

“Anything can be discussed,” Albert said. “Kids from Foster (technology center) should arrive early.”

“Three (early layoffs) a month might be too much,” Fitzgerald said. She asked that a decision be filed to give the administrators time to consider the alternatives.

Spruce Mountain Elementary School is in Livermore. Elementary, middle and high schools are in Jay. Students from Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls attend.

Opening day for the 2022-23 academic year is scheduled for September 1 for most students. Pre-kindergarten students would start on September 8. The last day of school is set for June 9, 2023, with graduation on Sunday, June 11, 2023.

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