BERRIEN SPRINGS — Berrien Springs school district officials should have more flexibility next year when it comes to making up snow days. That news came at Thursday night’s school board meeting during a discussion of next year’s school calendar.
The question of snow days came up earlier this spring when school board members decided in April and May to require district elementary students to come back to school for an extra day. While today is the last day of school for district secondary students, elementary students will come back Monday for a half day of classes.
Board members decided not to take the extra snow day waivers authorized by the state for elementary students because they felt it sent the wrong message. They said the snow day waivers authorized by the Legislature and signed by the governor was “irresponsible” in allowing districts to get by with less days in the classroom this year.
Thursday, district administrators said they’d received a few negative comments from parents but most understand the reasons for the board’s decision when it is explained to them. The elementary schools were closed an additional day because of a power outage last fall besides the snow days.
Mars Elementary Principal Dee Voss said her students will be hearing a presentation on summer safety from school resource officer Rick Smiedendorf and having other activities. Sylvester Elementary Principal Chelsea Pollyea said her school is having a field day celebration.
As for the 2019-20 school calendar, Special Education Director Danny Bartz said they tried to design it in order to meet the two goals of having adequate time for instruction and enough time for staff professional development. This is the first year that the school board has approved the calendar after a change in state requirements.
Bartz told board members that the district has built in “flex days” to the calendar at the suggestion of state officials to better handle situations like this year in which districts accumulated a lot of snow days due to bad weather. “The state wants districts to build in snow makeup days,” he said.
In Berrien Springs, President’s Day as well as the day before spring break have been set aside as flex days in case they’re needed to make up a snow day or two. He said parents would be informed at least two weeks ahead of time if class will be held on one or both days.
When asked by board member Eric Stoub, Bartz and Superintendent Dave Eichberg said the state hasn’t set up any mechanism to have “technology education days” count as instructional days. That sort of mechanism in which students can do work at home via computers and electronic devices on snow days has been set up in Indiana.
Eichberg said students in grades seven through 12 have laptop type devices they can take home but the devices stay at school for elementary students.
In other action, board members approved hiring Beckering Construction of Grand Rapids as the construction manager for the $19.73 million bond issue project. They will be paid $1.4 million to oversee all the subcontractors on the project and provide bonding for them.
Board members also started the process of evaluating Eichberg for his annual evaluation. Thursday’s closed session involved Eichberg giving his self-evaluation while board members will hold a special meeting June 13 to conduct their evaluation of him. The results of the evaluation will be announced at the board’s June 20 meeting.