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Employees will choose school calendar

by Amber McDown

A special meeting of the Webster Parish School Board was called to discuss the protocols for adopting a new school calendar for the 2023-2024 school year. Prior to this meeting a workshop was held with the Calendar Committee which consists of Charles Strong, Jonathan Guthrie, Margaret Edens, and Jerry Lott, though all of the school board members contributed to the discussion.

Testing data was released during the March 13 school board meeting that shows improvement in overall scores for the parish, with most students getting back to pre-COVID levels. The balanced calendar is considered a factor in this success. 

Funding for the intersession activities was a concern. The district has only one more year of the federal funds (ESSER) which have been being used for intensive instruction during the intersession breaks. These funds have already been approved to be used in a similar fashion next year, but they are not scheduled to be available after that. If the balanced calendar continues to be used beyond next year, there are plans being made to replace those funds with other Title funds. 

“I think that we could figure out a way to do it that wouldn’t bankrupt the system,” said Superintendent Rowland.

If the traditional calendar is selected, amendments will need to be filed with the federal government to change what activities, etc. the ESSER funds can be used for. “But we’ll probably be leaving money on the table,” said Business Director Crevonne Odom. 

It was quickly established that the decision for which calendar to choose — the balanced calendar for the third consecutive year or a return to the traditional calendar — should be determined by a survey of all Webster Parish school employees. Edens stated, “I think these calendars are great, and I think I have an idea what they’re going to choose. But the point is, they are going to choose for themselves and we’re not.” 

President Strong would like to find a way to include all stakeholders in this decision, including the families who are part of the school district.

“I would like to see a greater, more active level of cooperation between all stakeholders,” said Strong. “All stakeholders. And that certainly includes our employees. It also includes families. Right now, that is the missing puzzle piece to me. I would like to spend extra time thinking about how we can bring them into the picture so they can have their rightful say.”

The determination of how to include parents in decisions such as which calendar to choose was not made by the end of the meeting, but it is something the board is still considering.

The survey will be in a Google Forms format, and it will be set up to keep all information anonymous. A district email address will be required to access the survey so each employee can vote only once. 

The board voted to use the survey to allow the employees of the district to vote on which calendar to use next year. The survey will open on March 21 and close at 4 PM on March 23.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6 PM on April 3. The public is welcome to attend.

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