School board delays start of school at special meeting

The board unanimously voted to delay the first day of school until Tuesday, Sep. 8, one day after Labor Day

Looking+at+the+district+website+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+12%2C+District+Superintendent+Frank+Harwood+discusses+the+upcoming+bond+issue.+Harwood+proposed+a+delayed+start+of+school+to+the+board+Monday%2C+July+27.+

By Victoria Wright

Looking at the district website on Friday, Feb. 12, District Superintendent Frank Harwood discusses the upcoming bond issue. Harwood proposed a delayed start of school to the board Monday, July 27.

Ben Wieland, Mill Valley News editor in chief

The school board unanimously approved superintendent Frank Harwood’s recommendation to delay the first day of school to Tuesday, September 8 — one day after Labor Day — at a virtual meeting Monday, July 27. 

Harwood’s reasons for proposing the delay were rising COVID-19 cases in Johnson County, the extra time needed to reschedule and plan for students choosing remote learning, and the need to wait for health equipment to arrive. His proposal followed similar decisions by other local school districts. 

At the meeting, no decision was made on whether the return to school will be fully in-person, partially in-person, or entirely online — that decision will be made at a later meeting closer to the start of school. Board member Ashley Spaulding urged community members to take health and safety precautions to increase the chances for an in-person reopening. 

“I would implore everyone to continue wearing masks and socially distancing,” Spaulding said. “The school building is where everyone wants to be, but I think we all have a responsibility to help ensure that can safely happen.”

Harwood also shared more information about the district’s remote learning option for the upcoming school year. The district currently expects between 1,500 and 2,500 students to choose the remote learning option, based on a parent survey where 22% of parents said they wanted to go remote and 20% were still undecided. 

The school building is where everyone wants to be, but I think we all have a responsibility to help ensure that can safely happen.”

— board member Ashley Spaulding

Rescheduling these students, Harwood said, will be no small feat — it’ll require counselors to complete a usually six-month-long process in the span of weeks. 

“Not only will we have to reschedule those students, we will also have to reschedule every grade and every class at every school,” Harwood said. 

Support for Harwood’s suggestion to delay school reopening was strong; board member Stephanie Makalous called it “what’s best for our district and for our students.” 

It’s not yet certain how the revamped school year calendar will look — those details will be ironed out at later meetings — but Harwood did rule one option out: extending the school day. The new schedule won’t have any flexible snow days built in, and it’ll either feature a shortened spring break or an extension of the end of school into June. 

Spaulding called for the district to remember, even working with a shortened timeframe, to provide adequate professional development and classroom preparation days for teachers. 

“Teachers need time in their classrooms to prepare and ensure that the safety of our students and staff is a priority,” Spaulding said. 

Enrollment for optional remote learning will be moved to Monday Aug. 10 and Tuesday, Aug. 11. 

More details on remote learning and logistics of the reopening plan will be discussed at the next board meeting Monday, Aug. 3 at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube page. 

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