Flexible learning days discussed at length by the school board

By Daniel E. McGonigle

General Manager

The Caledonia Argus

Over two-thirds of the respondents to a survey sent out by the Caledonia Area School district responded that they would prefer another “flexible learning day” over having to make up snow days by coming back to school in June.

The actual numbers came back as 82 percent in favor.

The survey, which included feedback from parents, teachers and students, led the board to approve another flexible learning day for the weather related school closing on Friday, Feb. 24.

Apprehension

At the Tuesday, Feb. 21 board meeting the night after a pilot flexible learning day took place on Presidents Day, Feb. 20, some board members were apprehensive about continuing the practice.

“I just think its a slippery slope,” said board chairman Kelley McGraw.

McGraw wanted to see a “hard surface rule” put into place and wanted to work with the bus company in order to deal with the rural roads during a storm, yet still get students to the buildings.

“I think we could do more to work with our vendor,” McGraw said.

School board member Jared Barnes said that his concern is that “for some kids, coming to school is breakfast and lunch and is their only meals.”

“And a safe place,” added McGraw.

Superintendent Ben Barton and other members of the board were quick to point out that the program was merely in its pilot stage and that the board always had the option to rule against it.

However, the feedback the educators gave to principal Gina Meinertz was favorable.

She also emphasized that several institutions have gone to some model similar to this in an effort to deal with winter in Minnesota.

“It’s how colleges are educating students so it is good for them to learn these skills now,” Meinertz said, in the context of the high school students.

She said at her building, the elementary school, parents and students and teachers also all responded positively.

Storms coming

As we all know now, Friday, Feb. 24 was another flexible learning day for students at Caledonia area schools.

But on Tuesday at the school board meeting, Mr. Barton wanted the board to make the decision whether to allow another pilot day or whether the pending storm would force a makeup day in June.

That evening, the survey results showed 181 responses and was still around 82 percent in favor of a flexible learning day.

District office manager Karen Schiltz reported the results to the board members.

“I guess if that many people want to see this continue then I can go along with it,” Barnes said.

The survey closed at midnight on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

A final tally showed over 400 respondents still with an 82 percent number in favor of keeping the flexible learning day rather than making up snow days in June.

At the state, districts are only allowed a total of three flexible learning days currently while still being eligible to receive funding on the per pupil student contact day.

“I suspect that will change eventually,” said Barton, and that they will remove that limit.”

The board plans to gather feedback from the recent flexible learning day on February 24 and will review it for future dates at the March board meeting.

In the meantime, the board approved additional flexible learning days should the need arise prior to the March board meeting which will be held on March 20.