CALENDAR AND NOTES
Summer months are upon us as we have concluded two weeks following the 2014-15 school year. Things continue to be busy around the school campus, however, as a variety of camps and activity sessions are being conducted. Certainly conditions are different, but there are a lot of students and staff around the buildings.
There are a couple topics that I would like to address in this week’s column. We have had a number of questions about the 2015-2016 school calendar. I will also highlight some of the staff activities during the summer.
As I write this, the television news programs are explaining that a legislative Special Session is being scheduled for Friday, June 12. Although there are a number of issues for the Special Session, one of the core tasks is to conclude the work on the Education issues at the capitol.
Current Minnesota statute requires schools across the state to open school after Labor Day. In September, 2015, this means that school cannot start until September 8—the latest date possible for a school start.
As you may be aware, we have adopted two calendars for the coming school year. One of the calendars followed current statute setting our start date after Labor Day—September 8. The other calendar adopted by the School Board provided an earlier start.
The reason for two calendars was that in the 2014 legislative session, there were some efforts to change the law and allow schools to start before Labor Day. We had expected that, if the law was changed, we would be given opportunity to start by September 1.
During the 2015 legislative session, one of the “policy” elements of the state omnibus education bill included provisions to permit starting school on September 1—for this year only. Based on the action during the legislative session, the “preferred” calendar has been set to be the September 1 start date—if we are permitted to do so.
Assuming the omnibus education bill is approved and it continues to include the provisions for a September 1, 2015 start date, the ROCORI calendar will follow that date. We will confirm the calendar after the Special Session is complete, but we want community members to be prepared for this change.
Because we have made a commitment regarding a keynote speaker for September 3, the change in calendar also reflects a half-day of school on that day. The morning would be with students; the afternoon will be our keynote speaker.
Over the past month, we have heard (in the district office) a fairly persistent rumor that, as far as we are aware, has no basis in fact! The rumor is that a large number of Somali students are being bused into the ROCORI District for the 2015-16 school year. The number of students has ranged anywhere from 35 to 200 students.
We know, and understand, that there has been considerable unrest within the St. Cloud School District and there is no doubt that these conditions have prompted and encouraged the rumors. Within the District Office, however, we do not know of such arrangements. We have heard this specific rumor a great deal but find no basis or validity to the rumor.
What is true is that we have authorized a bus route along the fringe of the ROCORI-St Cloud border. It will run from St. Augusta to St. Joseph to pick up open enrolled students. We have, in past years, extended a bus route in the St. Augusta area. We have authorized work on a route that would begin in St. Augusta, go up to Interstate 94, and then extend into St. Joseph.
The reason for the extended route is that we know there is interest in transportation from this area. We have had an increase in open enrollment from this part of the St. Cloud District. This specific route has been authorized, but there are no specific numbers, riders, or bus stop schedules yet.
Under Minnesota state law and as a school district that receives Integration and Achievement funds, we are a school district that participates in the open enrollment program. Provided students follow the appropriate processes, we are required to accept students that open enroll to ROCORI. As such, all students who open enroll to ROCORI are approved for attendance.
I am often asked, as the school year ends, what I will do with all the time off in the summer. Quite often people do not understand that a number of school staff members, including the superintendent, must be at the school year-round.
I understand the confusion. Clearly, students have a summer break between school years. Members of the teaching staff and paraprofessionals who are not engaged in summer education programs have a break between school years. Our food service staff has a break from their duties. Some of our secretarial staff has extended time away from the school sites. There is a significant change in the number of employees at the sites during the summer; we do, however, have staff on a year-round basis!
Although students are away, we have a significant number of people who do work year-round. The custodial staff is very much involved in work over the summer as all of our buildings, classrooms, and spaces undergo extensive cleaning. Cleaning and maintenance crews move through all of our sites to clean and repair facilities for the upcoming school year.
There are many duties for our secretarial or clerical staff. The grades, academic information, records and details from the completed school year must be finalized. The supplies, resources, and materials for the upcoming year must be ordered, received, organized, and distributed. There are enrollment and other student records that must be addressed. Classes for the upcoming year must be scheduled, class lists finalized, students and parents notified, and other planning activities completed.
In the district office, all of the normal year-round functions must be completed. We have many of the same, regular responsibilities that occur monthly—payroll, insurance, bills, school board meetings, calls, other meetings, appointments, vehicle schedules, building schedules, and other activities. Many of the duties are just the same in the summer as they are through the school year.
Administratively, we have work to complete from the previous year while planning for the upcoming year. There is often a considerable amount of hiring to complete along with training issues. Reviewing schedules, overseeing summer programs, organizing various areas of the schools sites and working with custodial crews to make space/physical changes to the sites, and other issues occur.
This year, there is also negotiations work in which to engage as all of our employee agreements expire on June 30, 2015. We have started the negotiation process with teachers and will engage with other employee groups as well.
Summer is actually a very busy part of the year! Much of the work is planning, but there are a lot of regular tasks that are on-going and need to be completed during the summer just as other parts of the school year!
For more than a decade, the ROCORI District closes for a full week during the summer. As a cost-saving measure in the early 2000s, the School Board adopted a motion to close the district for the week around Independence Day.
Because it happens around the end of one fiscal year and the start of another, we try to schedule the week of closure in the new fiscal year. Thus, the district is closed, this summer, from July 1 to July 7.
Because the 4th of July falls on a Saturday, the dates this year fall into two separate weeks.
There are no authorized school district activities during this week as all offices and buildings are closed.
Although the regular school year schedules have come to a halt, the school sites are very busy. Summer school is underway. Camps and activities have been scheduled. All of our regular district-level activities continue.
It is hard to believe that we are already two weeks into the summer season! Time just passes way too quickly as, when you read this, we will be half-way through June!!