Looking ahead to the future

School calendar, preschool program approved for 2018-19

The coming school year will bring a few changes to Marshalltown Schools.

The Marshalltown School Board voted Monday to approve the 2018-19 school calendar after discussion in recent board meetings. Spring break will be retained next school year, but early-out Wednesdays will be no more.

“We conducted two surveys,” said district Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte of how the calendar was decided. “One was on the professional development component and what preferences were of employees and/or parents, and then the second survey had to do with spring break.”

With the end of early-out Wednesdays, district staff will have eight full days of professional development to maintain and improve their education skills.

The spring break survey yielded close results, but the new calendar keeps the five-day break, scheduled for March 11-15, 2019.

In the spring break survey, 55.1 percent of 439 participating district employees favored spring break. Among surveyed parents, 52.4 percent of 401 participants preferred no spring break.

“Our employees tended to favor a continuation of spring break with a simple majority; parents tended to favor not having spring break by a little bit smaller majority,” Schutte said. “So, the proposal, because the combined totals landed on retaining spring break, would be to approve this calendar, which approves spring break for next year.”

He added there may be conversation in the future about an “alternating” spring break, where the break would be held some years and not others.

“Of course, we can revisit that next year,” Schutte said of the potential alternating system, which was not part of Monday’s calendar approval.

The calendar sets the school start date at Aug. 23, while the last day of school is set for June 4, 2019, barring make-up days.

Also approved Monday was the district’s 2018-19 preschool program. Another change came with that approval.

“I’m recommending action for the board to approve a change in our programming from four half-days to five half-days per week,” said district Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson. “The increase in that programming does have a cost along with it.”

That cost, estimated at $19,500, will be paid with existing funds.

“The cost will be funded through reserves that we have in our Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program,” Stevenson said. “We have much more available in the budget than that.”

In other business

Rogers Elementary School officials discussed the building’s attendance center plan, and Principal Mick Jurgensen said staff have been working to build “student resilience.”

“One of the things that’s unique about Rogers school is that we have, over time, been able to work on a school climate that is very responsive to students’ needs,” he said.

To demonstrate some of the techniques used at Rogers to be responsive to students and help them learn, a small group of kindergartners reenacted their morning routine. A short reading session and a breathing exercise with slow, instrumental music were some examples from the routine.

Jurgensen said the techniques used at the school are backed by science and can help students concentrate on school work. Teachers are also able to better understand which students may need extra attention.

A board book study was also discussed. The book, “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” by Eric Jensen, goes over several different types of poverty and how students’ learning is affected by the increased stresses it brings.

A Marshalltown High School Art Club trip to Kansas City got board approval. On the itinerary for the March 2 trip are Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, the Kemper Art Museum, the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center and the Nelson-Adkins Art Museum.

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Central Administration Office, 1002 S. 3rd Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com