S-G plans to opt out of school start date law

Leader Reporter

The Shawano-Gresham School Board will hold a public hearing in July to start the 2000-2001 school year before Sept. 1.

School districts have to hold such a hearing to opt out of the state law that requires all schools to start after Sept. 1. The public sessions can be held before July 1, but action can't be taken by the board until then or later because it marks the start of the fiscal school year.

The proposed 2000-2001 calendar created by Shawano-Gresham teachers starts the year on August 28 and ends June 7.

Superintendent Rich Hess said he is getting an increasing number of phone calls from parents wanting to know what the calendar is so they can plan their year.

Although some parents may not like that proposed calendar because of work or vacations, he believed most parents just wanted to see a calendar so they can plan around it ahead of time.

Parents can voice their opinion at the July hearing, but Hess said it would be really hard to change anything at that point because the calendar would have to go back to the teachers union before the board can pass it and put it into effect and it could take a month to go through the teachers.

However, with more time to negotiate the 2001 and 2002 school calendars to be before or after Sept. 1, public input is desired.

The teachers polled about the matter agreed unanimously to start before Sept. 1. If school didn't start then, Hess said the district would run the risk of running farther into June and into the summer school program.

The start date made no difference to most school board members, but board member Jeff Hoffman was not sold on the idea of starting before Sept. 1.

From a teacher's perspective, union representative Mike Eidahl said the teachers were mainly concerned about "how much easier it is to get started in August than to keep going in June."

Hoffman protested to the pattern of going to school for a few days and then having a three day weekend because of Labor Day. He said school should just start after the holiday instead.

Those few days, however, can be very useful, Eidahl said. Even one to two days is helpful to get students acclimated with the school day again, so when school resumes after the holiday, it's back to business as usual, he said.

Hoffman was confident the district and the teachers could agree to start after Sept. 1 and be done by the end of May. A calendar with less vacation time could accomplish that, he said. The proposed calendar has 11 vacation days, not including holidays.

Although teachers want to get the year started and over with, Eidahl said none will want to work 180 days straight or work the students for that long. The vacation time is needed by both students and teachers.

In other matters, Shawano Community High School principal Chris Ligocki and Community Education Director Debbie White said courses will be offered this semester over the new distance learning lab, KSCADE, for SCHS and NWTC students.

The lab, which opened last fall, was used to offer three courses for the high school last semester, Ligocki said, but will be able to offer a full load of courses, include foreign languages, mathematics and sciences, this semester.

A SCHS teacher will even teach a course, he added. This was not possible last semester because S-G joined the network too late for scheduling purposes.

As the Community Education Director, Debbie White said she has seen a significant increase in the number of courses taken and offered by Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and plans on utilizing the distance learning lab as much as possible to encourage even more participation.

The NWTC courses offered this semester Monday through Thursday, have enough students, she noted.

n SCHS orchestra teacher Orren Fredrick was recognized for his efforts and advocacy for students. Among the many things he has done for the music program, Ligocki commended him on getting a grand piano for the auditorium and exhibiting the talent of the orchestra in the dedication concert and for taking 30 of his students on a trip to Ireland last summer.

"If it wasn't for Orren's vision, things like this would never happen," Ligocki said.

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By Amy Weaver
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