The Parsons USD 503 Board of Education Thursday discussed how students could make up the three snow days this week.
State law requires districts have 1,116 student hours for K-11 and 1,086 student hours for seniors.
Despite missing three days this week because of inclement weather, Superintendent Lori Ray said the students were still on schedule to finish above the state required number of hours, so the board would have the option of having or not having students make up the days.
Historically, the board dismissed up to two snow days or required students to make them up in part.
Ray said if the board did not require students to make up those days, it would present a problem for classified staff who do not get paid if they did not work those days.
“So for some of our staff, missing three days’ work this week … it can be a real burden,” Ray said.
The pay for the classified personnel for those days is already budgeted. Ray requested the board consider solutions.
There was an option for students not to have to make up snow days. A second option was students making up days at the end of the year, which would put them in class in the first week of June. A third option was adding 10 minutes to each school day through the fourth quarter.
One thing the board wanted to ensure is they were not just adding time to days to add time, but making sure it would be quality learning time. Given students are already behind because of COVID-19, the board did not want students to miss learning time.
“I want to caution the board on this added minutes versus added days because you have shared staff that are very locked into schedules and travel time between buildings. And the schedules, especially at the high school and the middle school, are very difficult to manipulate after they are already set like they are now,” board member Jeff Quirin said. “So if you add 10 or 15 minutes to a day you run into scheduling problems for shared staff. My personal view is if we’re going to make time up, we add a day or whatever the board decides and not minutes just because of a scheduling problem.”
Looking over the calendar, the board found little flexibility unless days were added at the end. The only option was to convert the Good Friday holiday, April 2, to a regular school day for students and a work day for staff.
In exchange for working that day, the board agreed it would forgo making up the other two snow days. In addition, the board approved classified staff being paid for those two days they would not have a chance to make up.
District Technology Director Ben McGuire asked for the creation of two new technology positions for USD 503. He requested the ability to hire an assistant hardware technician to aid in the upkeep of all the new devices that have been added to manage remote learning.
In addition, he requested the addition of a grade school technology assistant, working under the tech department, to cover up to all three of the grade schools.
McGuire said the second request was suggested by principals because if the person now working as both a technology assistant and an aide in the elementary schools is moved to only technology, they would need a grade school tech assistant.
“I’m totally against this,” board member Roger Duroni said. “We need teachers. We need curriculum. I would like to hear curriculum.”
Board member Joan Thompson reminded Duroni that all curriculum being taught today is dependent on technology.
“With the number of new devices, in order to keep up with repairs, my recommendations is you add these two positions,” McGuire said. “This isn’t something I want to do. I see it as a necessity.”
Because of the pandemic, the district expedited its plan to move to one-to-one computers, allowing for every student to have a computer should the district or student be required to go to remote learning.
McGuire said that greatly increased the amount of technology in the district, and the required repairs on equipment is substantial.
The board opted not to insure the computers, but rather did a tech fee and had parents sign agreements they would be responsible for repairs. While parents cover costs, McGuire said the district is still responsible for fixing all the items in house, and it is beyond his ability to keep up. He said he is already having to pull middle school and high school technology reps to help him, which takes them away from their duties at the schools they are serving.
“It’s detrimental to the buildings when I need help with district level projects,” McGuire said.
Parsons Middle School Assistant Principal Tyler Gordon expressed his belief the district needs more tech people.
“We don’t have enough to keep going the way we are going,” McGuire said.
The board asked if McGuire had data to support his requests. He said he did but not with him.
The board tabled the decision until March.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board:
— Heard the school calendar for next year will change in order for spring break to align with colleges in Kansas, so all students will be on spring break at the same time.
— Heard Parsons middle school and high school parent-teacher conferences are scheduled for 4 to 7:30 p.m. March 15 and 17.
— Heard elementary school parent-teacher conferences will be from 4 to 7:30 p.m. March 16 and 18.
— Heard assistant superintendent applications closed Feb. 12. The district received nine applications. The superintendent and assistant superintendent have begun reviewing them and will start calling references. Interviews for the final candidates will be scheduled for March 1-2.
— Heard a COVID-19 update. As of Thursday there were four active COVID-19 cases among students, or 0.31%. There were no active COVID-19 cases among staff. On Friday the staff will receive their second vaccine.
— Heard ESSER II funds are now being made available for student remediation and there are 15 different ways money can be spent, such as before and after school programs and summer school at every level. Applications should be available next week. The funds require the district develop a plan of how it will spend the money. The district would have until September 2023 to send the ESSER II funds, if approved.
— Heard an explanation on an item in bills and warrants labeled Design Mechanical, high school kitchen power failure repair. An heating and air unit on the roof above the cafeteria was struck by lightning. The district will not have to pay the $15,551 repair bill, only its insurance deductible. Insurance will cover the rest of the cost.
— Approved extending district manager contracts for Rick Giefer, transportation director, 4-2; Ben McGuire, technology director; Tonya Phillips, business manager, 6-0; James Ramsey, maintenance director, 6-0.
— Approved the termination of employment of bus monitor Amanda Wood.
— Approved the elimination of position and associated termination of employment of Gary Baldwin, district van driver.
— Accepted the resignation of Tracey Elliot as middle school dramatics head.
— Approved hiring Dorothy Box, bus monitor; Olivia Nolting, middle school assistant track coach; Lashall Snider, bus monitor; and Jeremy Woodworth, elementary guidance counselor for the 2021-22 school year.