The Cherokee Board of Education Monday night learned of the many challenges facing the District's 2013-2014 school calandar, and also heard a report on possibly shutting down the District's free summer lunch program that targets low income students, but is available to all students.
Each year as District administrators, faculty and staff work to formulate the next year's school calendar, various challenges present themselves as scheduling and mandatory state requirements are meshed into a workable annual calendar.
Continuing to follow the staff's majority preference of ending the first semester before the Christmas break, administrators struggle during certain calendar years achieving the 180-day school year with two 90-day semesters so the first semester ends by Christmas break.
Next year, both Christmas and New Year's fall on Wednesday and according to Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom, that makes it difficult to schedule semesters of equal number of days.
One option is to begin the school year earlier in August to allow for the 90-day first semester, but those earlier starts have generated parental complaints in the past.
As it is, among those times being discussed are a possible August 15 starting date for students, and Aug. 12 start for teacher professional development.
Also, the second semester can run into June and affect students who teachers feel "shut down" in the classroom and their studies once the summer softball and baseball seasons begin in April.
Another option is to do away with spring break that would alleviate such shortcomings and also provide avenues for any possible school make-up days due to inclement weather.
After much discussion, the Board asked Chalstrom to continue working on the calendar and consult with staff to come up with possible answers for as seamless a calendar as possible.
Having no spring break also would allow the District to schedule uneven semester days (ie. 89 and 91) that would alleviate congestion, ease the additional burden of state mandated faculty professional development days and teacher collaboration time, and allow more breathing room to fit everything in.
The Board also heard a report from Food Service Director Quinn Woods about the dwindling participation in the District's summer lunch program.
Woods said when the program first started seven years ago, they averaged more than 100 students each day for the free meals, but now that number has steadily decreased to about 40 each day.
Chalstrom said the program is not reaching its targeted students. "Our low income, free and reduced students are not who we are seeing there anymore," said Chalstrom and echoed by Woods.
Worse, according to Woods, is that the state mandates they prepare at least 100 meals each day based on past numbers and that they end up throwing away about 60 meals each day now that participation has dwindled.
Woods reported that this past summer they dished out 858 fewer meals than last year during the seven weeks the program operates. Paying workers and throwing away all that food is a no-win situation, according to Woods, who agreed with Chalstrom that perhaps the program has run its course.
In addition, the state's new nutritional food restrictions are to be applied to the summer program menu beginning this coming summer and that will only exacerbate the matter, according to Woods.
Woods said she needs to report to the state ny Feb. 1 if the District continues or shuts down the summer lunch program. The matter will be soon revisited by the District and Board.
In other action, the Board approved a contract for Amy Sarchet to serve as Washington High girls golf coach. Cherokee did not field a girls team last year due to lack of interest by students.
The Board also approved a request by James DeVos for out-of-state travel for WHS students to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to participaste in space exploration endeavors.