School board lengthens school days

After months of rumors, speculation, and discussion, the Ames school board finally made a decision about how to make up snow days at the school board meeting Monday night. The board passed a motion to add 33 minutes to the school day beginning April 5 to 16 to make up one snow day. The remaining days will be made up in June, with a projected end to the school year on June 4. During the meeting, the board examined a variety of options to make up the five school days before passing a final motion. The board agreed that they did not want the school calendar to extend into June 7, the first Monday of the month. However, as the meeting progressed, it became clear that there was a noticeable division of opinions between the board members as to what the ideal solution would be. The board considered three options: making students attend school on a Saturday, incrementally adding all the days needed by adding time to school days, and attaching all the days at the end of the year. A few board members brought up the point that adding 30 minutes to the school day could interfere with students’ home life and after-school activities. “We’re not getting any support for adding minutes to the end of the day,” board member Dan Woodin said. Supporters of adding time onto the end of the day also recommended that the extension of school days should be done as early as possible. Board member Francis Todey stated that May is typically an “extremely hectic” month in terms of activities, making it a problematic time to extend the length of school days. Other board members stood in support of making students attend school on one Saturday. Woodin suggested running a Wednesday schedule on the make up Saturday in order to lessen the irritation that would come with having to attend school on a weekend. However, other board members pointed out snags with implementing this plan. There was a lack of support behind the idea of making up the snow days on a Saturday. Board member David Putz pointed out that in a survey taken by parents and teachers in the school district, there was “no general support for Saturdays.” Acting Superintendent Tim Taylor confirmed this statement, saying that “[parents and teachers] did identify Saturdays as the least preferred options” for making up snow days. As the discussion stretched past 30 minutes, there was still tension and uncertainty as the issue remained unresolved. There was no clear solution that would satisfy all teachers, parents, and students. The possibility of the decision being moved to the March 25 meeting hung in the balance. But the school board members felt a sense of urgency. “Either we make a choice tonight or do nothing,” Todey said. Finally, a motion was made—and passed, 4-2—that 33 minutes be added to the end of the school day beginning April 5 and ending on April 16. A solution has been found, at least for now; the district’s teachers union must vote on the plan before it is implemented. If the union approves the plan, Ames High students can look forward to having about three to four minutes added to each of their class periods during those two weeks.