Waseca school district leaders are seeking community feedback on possible changes to the 2021-22 school calendar.
The calendar will remain at five days a week, but school officials are hoping some tweaks to the calendar could incorporate some of the positive impacts they’ve seen during distance learning this year.
The proposals are to either have one day of distance learning per month or to add four staff prep days to the school year with students out of school for those days. Both proposals would eliminate all early dismissal days for students.
Superintendent Eric Hudspith told the Waseca School Board during a work session Thursday that the proposals are in “draft mode” at this point. He said he hopes the distance learning proposal is a starting point for a discussion on potential calendar changes.
“If we can do this, should we and do we want to?” Hudspith said.
School district administration wants to capture the staff collaboration and student independence that have occurred during distance learning this year, but they also need to support the community by having students in person in school, Hudspith said.
Hudspith said his goal is to bring a finalized calendar proposal to the Waseca School Board for a decision at its May 20 meeting. School Board members were supportive of the calendar change proposals during Thursday’s work session, but said they wanted to hear from parents about the ideas.
The first calendar change proposal calls for one day of distance learning per month to allow staff time to collaborate with each other. Hudspith noted that they’ll need to create a districtwide structure for distance learning days if they move ahead with the idea because students’ activities on distance learning days currently differ between teachers. It’s not realistic to have one distance learning day every week, but Hudspith said he also doesn’t want the distance learning days to be so spread out that they’re not meaningful.
Whether the district can have monthly distance learning days next school year lies entirely with the state. State law only allows a school district to have up to five e-learning days per school year in the case of inclement weather and distance learning is only allowed under Gov. Tim Walz’s current executive order. It would be up to the Legislature to amend state law to allow districts to continue with distance learning once the executive order ends, Hudspith said.
In the second calendar proposal, four more staff prep days would be added to the school year. Hudspith said they’ve found this school year that having an entire prep day rather than a half-day after an early dismissal is more helpful for staff.
However, the district can’t add convert more than four regular days to staff prep days because the state requires students to be in school for a minimum of 165 days and Hartley Elementary School is at 169 days, Hudspith said. The change would leave no wiggle room for snow days and the district would have to commit to having all snow days be distance learning days instead, he said.