OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa School Board spent much of its time Monday looking at the calendar and curriculum changes for the 2021-22 academic year.
More immediately, though, Superintendent Mike McGrory updated the board on where the district is at in regards to “snow days” for the current school year.
He said the requirement for the school year was 1,080 hours and with the way the 2020-21 calendar was built, there were 31.8 hours to play with, building in about five days for cancellations. The district currently is over that allotment by about 12 hours with seven days called off in total.
He said that that seven-day total includes the hours missed for late starts and unscheduled early dismissals. “You have to count those hours,” he told the board.
McGrory said he is planning on bringing recommendations to make up those additional two days — and any potential missed time in the future — to the board at the next meeting. Part of the reason he’s holding off, he said, is to see if there is any movement with the state regarding requirements on making those up this year.
He then asked the board for their thoughts on making the time up. Board member Morgan Brown suggested staying an extra 30 minutes each day, or possibly doing any makeups in a virtual format.
McGrory floated the idea of extending Friday instruction to a full day; as far as replacing snow days with virtual days, he said that with the district being face-to-face full time, it would be more difficult for the district to implement virtual learning on short notice than other districts that are currently hybrid or virtual. However, he said, it could be a possibility that days tacked on at the end of the year could be done in a virtual format, giving teachers, staff and students time to prepare for such a shift.
The board also voted 6-0, with Nancy Manson absent, to approve the proposed 2021-22 calendar. McGrory said the proposed calendar was a very collaborative endeavor for all involved.
Under the calendar, school will start Aug. 23 and release for the summer on May 26, 2022. There are 1,104.5 hours scheduled when factoring in 12 hours for parent-teacher conference days, well above the 1,080 required by the state. “We have about four days built in for snow events, etc.,” McGrory said.
Thanksgiving break will run from Nov. 24-28; holiday break will begin Dec. 23 with classes resuming Jan. 3, 2022; and spring break is the week of March 14-18, 2022. Parent-teacher conferences will be held Nov. 8-12 and March 7-11, 2022, at all schools.
Graduation for the Class of 2022 is set for May 29, 2022.
The board was also tasked with approving the 2021-22 program of studies updates.
While many of the changes regarded renaming or recoding classes to better align with concurrent enrollment goals, there were other shifts as well.
Starting with the Class of 2024-25, the graduation requirement will move from 46 credits to 48 credits with new requirements of a behavioral science credit in psychology or sociology, a Beyond High School credit and at least one CTE credit in family and consumer science, industrial technology or business.
The district is also increasing concurrent enrollment on-site course options by 73 credits and added three advanced placement classes. Students will also be able to have the option to take college courses as pass/fail in regard to their high school transcripts.
In addition, health class will become a required class for eighth-graders at Evans Middle School. Principal Aaron Ruff said 1 1/2 teachers have been added to the school to allow for this, and students will receive high school credit for the class. Incoming ninth-grade students for the 2021-22 school year “will be strongly encouraged to take health as an elective,” the update from the district reads.
The required Beyond High School course, according to a presentation made to the board, will focus on career and college readiness as well as providing students with different perspectives when it comes to other cultures. It aims to provide students with the necessary skills needed to become successful after graduation.
Freshman Success, also a new addition, is designed to assist students “who have not been successful in school to develop the habits necessary for them to achieve in school, to be on track to graduation and to set education and/or career goals beyond high school,” the description reads. High school staff will work with Evans staff to identify students that might have a rough transition to high school for placement in the course.
Safety changes are also being designed for the high school. All administrative offices will be relocated to the first floor. “By doing this, both administration and guidance will be together, stopping the public from having to roam our building,” reads the presentation to the board. The secure entrance open during the school day will move from Door 1 to Door 3, both on the Fourth Street side of the school. There will also be about 115 new security cameras installed inside and outside the building.
The board voted 5-1 to approve the program of studies, with Brown dissenting.
He raised concerns about a listing under the Physical Education parameter regarding removing the teacher recommendation from Physical Conditioning, noting he’s heard complaints from coaches “upset they aren’t able to get their athletes in.”
“Because we went away from needing a recommendation to get into the class, now, for equitability, anybody who wants to take Physical Conditioning can take Physical Conditioning first-come, first serve, which doesn’t leave enough openings for some of our athletes,” he said.
Activities director Scott Maas said that while it was a problem not all the school’s athletes are in the class, it’s for a variety of reasons, including students not having room in their schedules or simply not signing up for the class.
“I’ve been focused the last couple of years more on trying to just make more room by creating more sections of the Physical Conditioning class,” Maas said, saying he’s looking at options to get more equipment in the fitness center and rearranging some offerings in the P.E. department “so that we can have, maybe not every period, but a lot of periods have two classes going on at the same time,” such as a beginners section and an advanced section. “We’ve been looking at options to try to solve that,” Maas said.
“I’m glad there’s a lot of interest in the Physical Conditioning class,” Brown said. “Ultimately, I would love for everybody to be able to take it that wants to. But while we’re currently restricted and limited, I do think that we ought to be giving our athletes first right of refusal on those classes.”
McGroy said that after registration the district could present the numbers for the class and how they compare to previous years, and also possibly get feedback from students on if there were any problems getting it into their schedule.
In other business, the board:
• Voted 6-0 to approve tentative agreements with the custodian and maintenance employees as well as food service employees. McGrory said the custodial staff asked for less if it meant food service could get more, something he said he’s never seen before. “I thought it was very gracious on their part,” he said.
• Voted 6-0 to approve the 28E agreement with Sieda Community Action Head Start for the partnership at the Pickwick Early Childhood Education Center for the current year. The agreement reflected changes in staffing as well as funding for the year.
• Voted 6-0 to approve several items regarding the bond refinancing agreement regarding outstanding 2012 and 2013 SAVE bonds as well as e-Rate technology contracts for 2021 hardware and fiber service projects totaling $52,858.
• Receiving a student council update for second semester activities. They include a virtual pep assembly, intramural, staff appreciation week, and GNIMOCEMOH (homecoming spelled backward), a spirit week at the end of the year to honor the senior class including dress-up days and Mr. And Miss OHS.
• Recognized employees of the month: Cherie Langland, boys swim coach; Erika Mull, Pickwick preschool teacher; Danny Palmer, Horace Mann crossing guard; Heather Swanstrom, OHS science teacher; and Krista Burton, Eisenhower third-grade teacher.