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Jasper board asking for calendar waiver


The Jasper School District Board of Education met in special session Tuesday, Feb. 6, and approved the superintendent's recommendation to make an application to the state asking for a waiver to change from a traditional to an alternate school calendar to make up time lost due to recent winter weather.
Unscheduled school closings are having an effect on school districts this year due to a change in school law.
The Arkansas Department of Education says decisions regarding school district calendars, the use of Alternate Methods of Instruction (AMI) days, and whether to close the school and use makeup days are made completely on the local district level. However, districts that choose to continue to use AMI days rather than closing and later using makeup days will not get any funding under the LEARNS Act.
The Arkansas LEARNS Act says a public school district must be open for on-site, in-person instruction for at least 178 days, or 1,068 hours in order to get funding from the state for teacher's salaries. It essentially ended sending home designated packets containing school work assignments for students to complete whenever they stayed at home due to inclement weather. By turning in the completed work students received credit for attending class.
At the special meeting that began at 4:30 p.m., Brasel said the state has allowed the district to have the option of changing the school calendar at mid-year. She said the school district is looking at adding 6-8 days at the end of the year (depending on campus) if the board didn't do something.
The schools' staffs were polled on what they would like to do and they overwhelmingly agreed to ask for the waiver, going to an alternate calendar that counts hours of instruction rather than days of instruction, Brasel told the board. The faculty also agreed to use Friday, Feb. 9, as a student contact day rather than a planned in-service day, and to give up the Good Friday holiday to make up two days of school missed.
Brasel said she had to meet with each school principal because each campus has a different bell schedule.
The state calls for schools to complete 1,068 hours of instruction during the year. Anything over that the schools can bank and use for makeup days.

Each campus has developed a plan for making up the time.
Oark School actually already had 377 instructional minutes per day built into its schedule. The state requires only 360 minutes per day to meet standards so the school has been banking 17 minutes a day all year. It has enough banked minutes so by the end of the year it will have all of its required hours.
Jasper and Kinston campuses, however, have been banking only 5 minutes a day, because they each have scheduled 365 instructional minuted per day scheduled. They are proposing to extend those minutes.
Kingston will extend its day to 400 minutes. The day will start at 7:45 a.m. and dismiss at 3:16 p.m. the school will have five banked days to use.
Jasper is doing the same thing, Brasel said.
After banked time is used Andy additional time missed will have to be added on to the end of the school year. It is still possible some days could be added if more time is missed. It was also noted that banked time does not allow students to be excused from class. Banked time is viewed as bonus learning time for them.
Brasel said the staffs have been told anyone who can work remotely from home, that on snow days from here on out can work virtually.
Each principal is working with their staff to make up the time from these past snow days because although the district is expanding instructional minutes that doesn't change teacher contracts, Brasel pointed out. Also some employees are allowed to be flexible allowing them to work an additional hour a day here or there as long as it doesn't put them over 40 hours a week. Each department is different she said.