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School Schedule Changes Discussed

By Ann Needle

The School Committee put off a vote last night on the proposed 2014/15 school calendar, hoping some awaited changes will come through on the teachers’ contracts. Meanwhile, the school day may look a lot different next year.

Last month, Nashoba administration presented the Committee with two proposed calendars. The recommended version “B” would replace the all-day parent/teacher conferences on Election Day (November 4) with a vacation day, and keep the full professional development day the Friday before April vacation. Version “A” reverses that back to what it was this year, with a full-day of P/T conferences on Election Day. Though administration supports B, town clerks in the district are backing A, citing traffic woes that crop up when parents are trying to get to schools with voters nearby.

The Committee decided to postpone the vote, noting that the teachers currently are contracted for one full PD day directly following PT conferences. This would need to be changed in current union negotiations in order to consider B.

Also, several Committee members asserted that the majority of parents in a recent Nashoba survey said they would not mind giving up February vacation, if it meant an earlier end to the year in June. Wood initially proposed slicing this break from the calendar, but reneged when considering the trouble it could cause for families and teachers with students in other districts.

Another schedule change could be in the works. In his report to the Committee, Wood announced he is considering “flipping” the daily schedules of Nashoba’s elementary and high school students. He explained that the elementary and middle school grades would have an 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. school day (currently 8:35 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.), while Nashoba Regional High School students would likely go from 8:45 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., vs. the current schedule of  7:40 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.

“As you know, I am a proponent for our older students to have a later start of the school day,” Wood reported. “The research is conclusive that there is a biological need for more sleep, and challenges to their ability to get it due to the level of activity in their lives.” Wood said he will continue investigating the possible schedule change with others in the district, along with surrounding districts that are discussing this potential change.

From High School to Pre School
In a presentation by NRHS Director of Guidance Jodi Specht and Principal Dr. Parry Graham, the pair did its annual review of some of the academic characteristics of last spring’s graduating class. Among the highlights of the class of 2013 were: more than 81% went on to 4-year colleges, MCAS scores have stayed steady over the past 3 years, and there was a 40% increase in the number of Advanced Placement exams taken over the past 5 years.

Asked whether class rank will or should continue to be reported on a student’s transcript, Dr. Graham replied, “I’m becoming convinced the answer is no. As a top-tier high school, a kid in the 30th percentile at Nashoba may be in the top 10% elsewhere.”    Specht explained that Nashoba would continue reporting rank to those demanding it, including military service academies. “The difference between the 25th and 15th student is often very small,” Specht maintained, noting that many competitive schools comparable to NRHS also are dropping class rank.

For the lower grades, the Committee unanimously accepted Asst. Superintendent George King’s proposal to increase both Nashoba’s pre-school and full-day tuition rates for 2014/15. Full-day kindergarten tuition will be hiked 3.3%, from $3,000 to $3,100  for the school year, with a discount of $100 on fully pre-paid tuition. Pre-school tuition will go up 6%. King noted the district has not hiked the full-day kindergarten tuition in two years, and the pre-school rate in several years.

In its standard review of ongoing policies and agreements, the Committee voted to accept minor changes to the district’s Student Code of Conduct Policy. Abstaining was Stow Rep. Maureen Busch, who remarked that a sentence should have been added that would point readers to a document or site explaining consequences for breach of conduct. The Committee unanimously voted in the updated Assabet Valley Collaborative Agreement (which covers some special education students).