Greencastle-Antrim school calendar adopted by slim board margin

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

It wasn’t for lack of trying, but advocates for a change to the start of the school year fell short Thursday night. The Greencastle-Antrim School District board of school directors faced two options for the 2016-2017 calendar.

Plan A was similar to the current policy, with students reporting on Aug. 22 and finishing up May 31. Plan B was a week earlier, Aug. 15 to May 23.

Chief educational officer Bob Crider opened the conversation.

“The journey has been a long one. For us administrators, the goal is to educate the students for 180 days. An early start gives more preparation time for assessment testing.”

Brian Hissong and Lura Hanks made the motion for Plan B. The problems with that timing were immediately presented.

Mike Still said, “I don’t get the early start thinking. And I don’t like the gap until graduation June 3.”

Linda Farley agreed, and thought mandated testing and final exams, mixed in with Christmas activities, would “bog” students down. Shannon Yates was concerned with how the schedule fit with the Career Tech Center. Paul Politis said the calendar was really a non-issue, as the students would always get the full instructional time, although mid-August seemed a bit early.

Crider said all of those matters had been considered and worked through.

Hissong countered, “Welcome to real life. In college first semester for everyone is done by Christmas. I want the students to have that experience.”

Hanks wanted to respect the wishes of the high school students who had been polled, and dramatically preferred an early start. Jim Winslow had seen the system work fine in another district.

The motion went down 3-5, with Hissong, Hanks and Winslow on the losing side. Tracy Baer was absent. The Farley/Politis motion for Plan A passed 7-1, with Hissong saying no. Second semester will begin Jan. 17 next year.

Hanks said she went with the majority, though not enthusiastically.

“The early start is a trend that is beginning around us. I can’t imagine studying over the holidays. I’d rather get the finals done,” she said.

Because setting the calendar was time-consuming and controversial each year, the board also adopted the same calendar for 2017-2018. The scholastic dates will be Aug. 21 to May 30.

Other business

Jamie Doyle, managing director from Public Financial Management, presented information on re-funding the Series of 2011 bonds. Because of G-ASD’s “fabulous” credit rating, the bond sale should save the district over $102,000, with the bulk of that arranged to occur in the first year. The General Obligation Bonds for capital projects, Series of 2016, would be sold in May during an internet auction. The board will make a decision whether to proceed on Feb. 18. Both bonds have the same expiration date, 2031.

The board accepted the resignations of the following teachers, effective at the end of the school year: Debra Eyer, district learning support; Tricia Schriver, district wellness; DuAnne Thrush, high school English; and Kathy Wertner, district learning support.

Sarah Schaeffer was hired as half-time long term sub for Latin.