Mascoutah District 19 will change its start and end times for school next year, approving the change after public comment against it and a one dissenting board member vote.
Cindy Presnell, assistant superintendent, said the change would allow more and longer “specials” classes, in that all kindergarten through fifth-grade students would have 40-minute specials classes.
“We can do this without hiring extra staff,” Presnell said.
Classes at the district’s three elementary buildings will start at 8:25 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m. Middle school students will start at 8:10 a.m. and be dismissed at 3:15 p.m. High schoolers will start at 7:55 a.m. and end the day at 2:35 p.m.
Board member Timothy Petersen wanted more detailed information about what it would actually mean for day-to-day activities for students and teachers.
“I have a big problem with asking us to approve times like that,” Petersen said. He noted that the high school day would be reduced by minutes.
“As a parent, I have a problem with my high school kid’s time being reduced. If anything, those are the kids whose time needs to go up,” he said.
Presnell defended that, saying that the high school prepared a mockup that would have six class periods of at least 50 minutes.
“The amount of instruction affected is three minutes a day; not five minutes, because some of that time was taken from another part of the day,” she said.
Presnell explained after the meeting that those two minutes would be taken from “passing” between classes or from lunch, and that the student representatives on the committee were not concerned about that reduction. She said the high school is actually going to increase the number of lunch shifts.
The committee that made the recommendation had a teacher, parent and administrator from each building in the district.
Matthew Stukenberg suggested simply adding five minutes to each school day.
“I asked those kinds of questions before and was told in essence, butt out,” Petersen said.
Petersen was against the time change because “we are proposing significant educational differences and we don’t have details.”
Board president Gregory Guenther said that was the reason administrators run the schools. The board made the policy, and the administrators implement it.
“This is why we have them,” he said, pointing to Superintendent Craig Fiegel and Assistant Superintendents Presnell and Frank Williams.
Board member Randy Renth also had questions about the proposed changes, but focused more on the elementary schools. He was concerned about snacks for those young students who would be in school longer.
“I’m a conservative individual, but that’s something we could go for,” he said.
Renth also had concerns for parents who would need to drop off their students earlier than the school day.
Presnell said part of the discussion had been about setting up a before school program, and have talked about opening the buildings earlier.
“I understand some parents who have kids in K-2 and grades three through five are applauding this,” Renth said.
Teacher Suzanne Petersen, who teaches first grade in the district and is married to board member Petersen, spoke against the changes before meeting.
She is concerned that the longer day would negatively impact the young students, who have short attention spans.
Presnell addressed those concerns as well, saying that the extra time would allow for “specials”, or art, music, physical education and library classes.
In other business
▪ During public comment student Gabby Petersen, a junior at Mascoutah High School and the daughter of board member Tim Petersen, brought a petition signed by more than 140 students and teachers asking that the board keep the policy allowing certain seniors to be exempt from taking finals. Superintendent Fiegel said the administration and board had no plans to change the exemption, and seniors in good standing would not have to take finals this year.
▪ The board approved changing the district’s website to a more user-friendly site, one that would visually better reflect the community and also be easier to navigate. A committee told the board that the site had last been updated in the year 2000. The proposal is that School Messenger, which already does the voice mail blast, also be the vendor for the website. The proposed site would cost $13,875, an increase of $575 a year, which would include 24-hour assistance for teachers updating their pages, would integrate with the school messenger system, and it also would have a language translator.
Renth pointed out the cost increase was only four percent; Petersen quipped it would be “useable versus not usable.”
The board unanimously approved the change.
▪ The board also unanimously approved a company’s estimate to remove the asbestos from the office area at Mascoutah Middle School. The estimate is $39,760. Board member Matthew E. Stukenberg said that after this project, only one area in the district still has asbestos.
All schools will have different start and end times next year at the Mascoutah School District.
Mascoutah, Scott and Wingate elementaries will start at 8:25 a.m. and dismiss at 3:25 p.m.
Mascoutah Middle School will start at 8:10 a.m. and dismiss at 3:15 pm.
Mascoutah High School will start at 7:55 a.m. and dismiss at 2:35 p.m.