The Cherokee School District Board of Education discussed the merits and shortcomings of two rough drafts of the 2010-2011 Cherokee School District calendar at Monday night's regularly scheduled meeting.
As presented by Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom, the two calendar options revealed an "early" school year start as has been utilized the past seven years and targets the end of the first semester coming before the Christmas break, and a "late" school year start that would move the end of the first semester into the end of the second week of January.
Chalstrom said a majority of faculty members and all the administrators favor the early start calendar strictly because the first semester ends before the holiday break, making for a smoother transition for students and teachers into the second semester after the holiday break.
Possible snow days that need to be made up at the end of the school year also play an important part in starting the school year earlier than later, said Chalstrom.
Youth baseball and softball seasons also play a part in that thinking, with a later starting school year running the second semester into June, according to Chalstrom.
Cherokee Washington High Principal Larry Hunecke said he also favors the earlier start to the school year. "That's the best option to me," said Hunecke, who cited the negative impact on instructional time and flow for teachers and students with the first semester ending after the holidays.
As proposed by Chalstrom Monday night, the early start calendar includes a Monday, August 16 start; the first semester ending Wednesday, December 22 with a 1 p.m. dismissal; and the school year ending Friday, May 20.
The second calendar option includes starting the school year on Monday, August 30, with the first semester ending on Friday, January 14, and the school year ending Monday, June 6. The holiday break in this calendar would be Thursday, December 23.
After discussion, the Board favored the early start calendar for the reasons so stated, and Chalstrom said he would fine-tune the calendar and report back to the Board at the next meeting.
In other business, Chalstrom said school Activities Director Neil Phipps would be forming a committee to study a state-wide (including Cherokee) decline in the level of student participation in high school athletics and other extra-curricular activities.
The issue is a growing concern among educators and affects many Iowa high schools. Chalstrom said the Lakes Conference is focusing on the phenomenon, and each Lakes school is also forming committees to research the reasons and, hopefully, come up with a solution to address the problem.
Chalstrom also said a representative of MUSCO Lighting from Muscatine would attend the January Board meeting to discuss the condition of the lights at Washington High's George Hicks Field for football and track and field. The deteriorated lighting system issue has continually been pushed back through the years because of the cost involved.
The lights are old and are "cobbled together" and desperately need upgraded, according to Chalstrom and MUSCO representatives who have inspected the lights and poles. In addition, they are so old that parts can't be found for repairing them. MUSCO will give the Board an analysis, show various options, and include finance options for the District.
"If we were to get a lightning strike on the old transformer, we'd have no lighting on our football field and would be unable to make the necessary repairs, Chalstrom cautioned the Board.
In other action, the Board approved the resignation of Leah Niemeier as a special education associate at Roosevelt Elementary, and approved a contract for Kami Johnson as special education associate at Roosevelt, replacing Niemeier.
The Board also approved a contract for Charity Anderson as the assistant 7th-grade girls basketball coach.