It took board president Jodie Greig's tie-breaking vote, but the Estherville Lincoln Central Board of Education Monday night, after much soul-searching, approved a Wednesday early out schedule.
Under a state mandate for 36 hours of collaborative teacher time a year, the board was hard pressed to find the time during the school year. A monthly schedule that would have taken entire days off for teacher collaborative time, for example, would have extended teacher contract days from 190 to 198 during the school year.
Before wrangling which of five early out scenarios would be approved, though, Norm Johnson, YMCA of the Okobojis executive director; Andrew Fisher, development director; and Josh Carr, Camp Foster director presented the YMCA of the Okobojis Y-Kids Club as one possible answer to the predicament district parents face with the weekly early outs. YMCA of the Okobojis administers the YMCA Kinship program, a merger of the Emmet County and Dickinson County Kinship programs that occurred in 2011.
Johnson said the Y-Kids Club program could provide after-school care for pre-K through fourth-grade kids for $5 a day from 1-3:30 p.m., $5 from 3:30-6 p.m. or $7 for 1-6 p.m. The licensed program at Demoney and Roosevelt Elementary would provide crafts, games, physical activities and other activities.
Johnson said he and Fisher had met with ELC superintendent Tara Paul and Justin Bouse, elementary principal, last Friday about the proposal.
Paul emphasized that she wanted to make sure there wasn't competition between the Regional Wellness Center and the Y, adding that there are not Wednesday programs at the RWC since it's family night.
Johnson said the program would have a 1:12 ratio of staff to kids and that it could handle 200-300 youth. He also presented a proposal for before and after-school care for pre-K through fifth-grade kids. Financial assistance may be available for those who demonstrate need. Johnson said a similar program currently serves 20-25 youth in Spirit Lake and 35 at Okoboji.
The Y-Kids Club would be in addition to the Energizer-Plus program at the RWC. Paul said that program could be expanded to accommodate 50 youth, with meeting times Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the RWC and Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Estherville Public Library. She said the program would be $3.80 a day per student and that the cost could go down to $3.40 if the district receives an Excel grant it applied for. Other partners would include the Emmet County Conservation Board, Emmet County Public Health, Avera Holy Family and the Emmet County Wellness Coalition. Paul said the program would include 30 youth from kindergarten through fourth grade and 20 in fifth and sixth grades, with at-risk students getting first preference.
As the board moved to take action on the early out issue, board member Kathy Cornwall asked why Wednesday instead of Friday - a suggestion that parents had made to her.
Paul said early outs have traditionally been on Wednesday and since it's family night no activities are scheduled. She said a majority of schools also have early outs for professional development on Monday or Wednesday.
"We've got to consider parents in all of this too," said board member Don Schiltz. "How many parents can afford this (after-school care)?"
Cornwall said she felt better about weekly outs with the Y-Kids Club proposal.
The main sticking points, though, seemed to be how best to schedule the 36 hours of collaborative time and the financial impact on parents.
"So really the issue before us is where do we go to make the 36 hours happen," said Greig.
Paul said she hoped the board could approve the calendar with the early outs and at its April meeting discuss lengthening the school days to make up for lost contact time with students.
Board member Mike Karels moved that the board approve the weekly Wednesday early outs as presented. He, Nancy Anderson and Cornwall voted in favor of the motion with Michelle McCoy, Don Schiltz and Duane Schnell voting against. Greig broke the tie by voting for approval.
Cornwall said it was important to emphasize that the board didn't go with the once-monthly early out schedule because it would have extended the teacher contract days. She also suggested that teachers could come in monthly to report on topics they've discussed during collaboration.