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Lawrence school board approves calendar for next year with 5-day weeks

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The Lawrence school board on Monday approved the district’s 2023-24 school calendar that keeps students in attendance five days a week. Research on a four-day week option will be presented to the board next month.

Co-chairs of the district’s calendar committee, Woodlawn Elementary School Principal Jayci Roberson and Districtwide Physical Therapist Jessica Rohrberg, presented to the board a draft of the 2023-24 academic year calendar.

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A budget proposal favored by the district’s Futures Planning Committee included the possibility of a four-day school week for students, though that was not discussed in depth during Monday’s meeting. The calendar committee decided it will later present two options for the board’s consideration — a traditional five-day week and a four-day student/five-day staff week. 

At the conclusion of Roberson and Rohrberg’s presentation, board member Kelly Jones asked Superintendent Anthony Lewis to clarify when the board will hear about that piece.

“I did see the presentation that the calendar committee gave through another committee I’m on,” Jones said. “What are the next steps for that, given that won’t be implemented next year?”

Lewis said the calendar committee has been working extensively on traditional calendars as well as researching a four-day school week, and that the committee members will bring that proposal back and share an update on the work they’ve been doing during the board’s March 27 meeting.

As of publication time, district spokesperson Julie Boyle had not responded to an email seeking to clarify whether it is possible that the board will still consider a four-day week for students for the 2023-24 school year as part of upcoming budget discussions.

Board President Shannon Kimball noted during the meeting that a new education bill introduced recently by Kansas lawmakers may be a game changer in the district’s planning for next year. 

House Bill 2224 would increase the number of school days and hours that districts must provide each year. It would take away a great deal of flexibility that districts currently have by requiring “195 school days consisting of 8 school hours per day or 156 school days consisting of 10 school hours per day.” Roberson said her understanding was that currently, a day counts as a full day as long as school starts.

“I’m not sure how seriously that (bill is) going to be taken, but given everything else, I’m watching it,” Kimball said. A hearing on the bill is set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15. 

The approved calendar includes two additional classified professional development days, as negotiated with the classified staff union, PAL-CWA. 

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The calendar follows this year’s fall break model of an entire week off for students and nine-month staff. Twelve-month staff will work Monday through Wednesday during fall break, and Thursday and Friday will remain paid holidays for all eligible staff. Additionally, starting in June 2024, staff who have worked 12 months will now have a paid holiday on Juneteenth — June 19.

Kindergarten orientation is also scheduled on the calendar for April 17, 2024, to give early childhood and kindergarten staff as well as families time to plan.

The calendar draft approved on Monday can be viewed at this link.

In other business:

• Resolution regarding state funding: The school board on Monday unanimously approved a resolution, with amendments, in support of adequate public school funding from the state of Kansas.

“This Resolution is to urge the Kansas Legislature to reject proposals to divert tax dollars to non-public schools and to support Kansas public schools and provide the necessary funding for them to serve all Kansas students,” according to Monday’s meeting agenda.

Board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood asked to pull the item from Monday’s consent agenda for discussion and encouraged the board to consider adding language to better support Native American students.

“This board can make history by acknowledging Indigenous treaties,” Cadue-Blackwood said during the meeting. “We can advocate for rigorous and relevant studies — standards for Indigenous curriculum. This board can support our Indigenous students as 80% of our Indigenous students nationwide live outside of tribal lands and attend public schools. Our Indigenous children depend on public education.”

Board Vice President Paula Vann added the importance of setting a standard for land acknowledgements within the district along with treaty work. After discussion, the board voted to approve the amended resolution with those additions and signed the document. 

The Futures Planning Committee’s last meeting is set for Wednesday, Feb. 15. The school board will then reconvene for a special meeting next week to hear an initial presentation of the committee’s budget recommendations. 

The special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. There will be no public comment allowed at that meeting as per usual for special board meetings, Kimball said.

“These issues are large and weighty, and the board needs an opportunity to hear the presentation and have an opportunity to ask detailed questions and have conversation as a board,” she said, noting that people are welcome to email the board anytime. 

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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