Planning for Next School Year

Message from Dr. K

Dear District 41 Community,

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Last night at the Board of Education meeting, I provided an update on our planning for next school year. This planning includes thinking through how to best serve all of our students in the school buildings given our new normal and unknowns. One of the greatest challenges for any school is to build the master schedule. This is not just the start and end time of the school day, it’s everything that happens within those hours. It is juggling many moving parts that must result in the ability to serve all students in a school, regardless of their need. It must have the ability to be responsive as we all know.

The goal for all educators is to provide a school day that best meets the needs of all students. Currently most teachers in grades 3-5 teach either literacy/social studies or STEAM. As part of the need to restructure for next year, the administrative team of principals and senior cabinet members strongly recommended to me that we have elementary teachers teaching both literacy and STEAM starting next school year.

I support this restructuring for the following reasons:

  • Builds more flexibility to provide supports and interventions across the day and not limited to only what works with a specialized schedule

  • Allows more opportunities to provide special education services that are not limited to only what works with a specialized schedule

  • Strengthens Social Emotional Learning (SEL) supports and instruction by affording teachers the ability to be flexible and responsive with their instruction based on the needs of students on any given day. As we all know, some days students are just not ready to move on. Teachers will have the ability to flex their instruction because they are able to flex their time. Right now, we have a schedule that has to be exactly the same in the two halves of the day.

  • Strengthens staff Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) because all of the people who need to be in the PLC can be in one PLC every day.

  • Students will not have to switch classrooms-potentially less need to quarantine and clean. A full day of school feels very “big” to some students right now. Bringing the numbers down allows teachers to focus on half as many students and half as many families.

  • Allows for daily literacy and math in the event that we have to go on an adaptive pause or remote. While we hope that these are not our realities for next year, do we really want to take that chance?

In addition to the restructuring the master schedule at the elementary schools, I also brought forward some of the other structures that are being discussed for next year, including:

  • Adding a supervising nurse practitioner position to work district wide.

  • Nine minute homeroom check-in time at Hadley Junior High.

  • Kindergarten day would remain the same as this school year. The focus would continue to be on uninterrupted blocks of core instruction only.

  • Elementary students remaining in the classroom for art, music and digital literacy.

  • Prek hours change 8:15-10:45 and 12:45-3:15

  • Student immunization exclusion will be extended to September 15.

  • PreK and K will increase instructional days by attending on all but 2 of the SIP days.

At the Board meeting last night, Board members asked questions about the new structure and engaged in conversation about teacher specialization in grades 3-5. Prior to the meeting, the principals and senior cabinet team members met with Board members two at a time to share this information and answer their questions. In addition, district administration met with GEEA leadership to inform them of the restructuring of 3-5 grades for the upcoming school year. Principals also met with staff prior to the Board meeting to share the restructuring plan that was going to be presented to the Board.

At the meeting last night, the Board also briefly discussed the difference between their governance role and district leadership’s role. The Board governs by charging administration with the “what.” What are our priorities and goals? The district and building administration’s role is to determine the “how.” How will we accomplish the goals and the priorities? That is what delineates the Board’s work from administrative work. Both are equally as important but they are very different.

Principals will keep all of the school communities and staff updated with plans moving forward for next year. You will be hearing from them soon. I appreciate their leadership throughout this very unique and challenging year as well as their work to prepare for next school year.

Thank you,

Dr. K.

Dr. Melissa Kaczkowski