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No days off in February or March for Morris Area

Several Morris Area school board members wondered if the school scheduled no days off in February and March that it might be too long of a stretch without a break as they considered the 2018-2019 calendar at the Feb. 20 meeting.

"In February and March there is not a full day off," board member Jennifer Goodnough said. "Can we take one from April and put President's Day (in February) back in (as a day off)?"

Superintendent Rick Lahn said a committee that includes teachers developed the calendar presented to the board. "We started with President's Day off and the committee asked for a day in April instead to have a longer Easter break, a four-day Easter weekend," Lahn said.

"That stretch in February and March is a long time," board member Robyn Van Eps said.

Minnesota requires students in first through sixth grade to have 935 hours of instructional time each school year. That equals 156 days in a six-hour day. Minnesota requires 1,020 hours of instructional time for students in grades seventh through 12th. That equals 170 days in a six-hour day. The state also requires a minimum of 165 days for all schools.

The Morris Area school calendar for 2018-2019 has 172 student contact days, board chairman Dick Metger said.

Lahn said the calendar for 2018-2019 was also developed to make sure construction crews could work on the school facilities project while school was not in session.

School starts on Sept. 4, 2018, and ends on May 24, 2019.

Goodnough said it appears Morris Area is exceeding state requirements for student classtime, so could President's Day just be changed to a day off.

Lahn said the board would need to decide not to pay teachers and staff on that day to to pay them for a day when they are not at school.

"I'm in favor of more student contact days," board member Kurt Wulf said.

Board member Doug Stahman said he believes teachers could handle the February and March stretch with no days off in 2018-2019.

Several board members also questioned the limited number of snow days included in the calendar.

Lahn said snow days are opportunities to use an electronic learning days such as flipped classrooms where students access lectures through a computer and when they return to class after a snow day, they work on the assignment.

"We can do it that way. That discussion can continue," Lahn said. But the overall calendar needed to be approved on Feb. 20, he said.

The board did approve the calendar but asked that snow days, electronic learning days, and number of student contact days be reviewed.