School year length questioned
by Lauren Harkawik
Apr 10, 2017 | 2477 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER- At Monday evening’s school board meeting, a request from Shirah Crafts to discuss Dover School’s number of student days was tabled until next meeting so the matter may be warned and the board may review research from Crafts in advance of the discussion. The board also discussed the possibility of camping trips occurring on school property and gave a brief Act 46 update.

“Why do we have 181 school days?” asked Crafts. The state minimum requirement for student days in a school year is 175.

“The teachers told us they didn’t have enough time with the kids,” said chair Rich Werner. “The more time the kids have, the better outcomes we have. That’s one reason our special education is low, and our outcomes are so high. It’s part of a whole plan that’s been in place for many years.”

Crafts said she had met with most teachers in the school, who told her that 181 student days is not something they, as Crafts put it, “want or are for.”

“Well, unfortunately they’re contracted,” said Werner.

Crafts asked how having so many school days in the year is benefiting the children, and Werner said that in the 15 years or so since the school adopted a policy of increased student school days, test scores have risen and special education needs have decreased.

Crafts started to tell the board about research she had completed on the topic, but was interrupted by Werner.

“If you have an issue with this, we’ll put you on the agenda, and why don’t you give us something in writing,” said Werner. “And then we can look at that. We can’t make a decision tonight because it wasn’t warned, and I think it’s not fair for you to come in having done a lot of research and just spring something on us without us being able to look at it and have a response. So if you can give us something ahead of time, maybe we can give you a better answer.”

Werner explained that a decision on such a matter can’t be made without being warned on a meeting agenda. “Because there may be other people who come in and think we should have 185 days,” said Werner. “I hate to shut you down, but we have no background. It may be better if you put something together and we can put you on the agenda.”

The matter will be warned for the board’s April 17 meeting.

James Dassatti, executive director of the Living History Association, was present to discuss the potential for history-themed field trips to occur on school grounds. The field trips, which would educate students about the American Revolution and Civil War eras, would involve day programs, overnight camping, a musket and cannon demonstration, and campfire singalongs. The trips would occur in the spring and would be attended by students from area schools, along with parents and chaperones. The association would also want to build a shed on school grounds to store equipment related to the trips.

Dassatti said he previously went to the Dover Selectboard about using land near Dover Town Hall, but the selectboard felt that land wouldn’t be appropriate and suggested Dassatti talk to the school board about using acreage behind the solar array on the school’s property.

The board was open to discussion, but raised a number of questions and concerns, including possible disruption to nearby residential areas and permitting issues. Dassatti said he would look into what type of permitting may need to occur and would report back at the board’s April 17 meeting.

With regard to Act 46, Werner said the board continues to be in a bit of a “holding pattern” as it awaits the results of a re-vote in Wardsboro. At Town Meeting, Dover voted in the affirmative to a proposed merger between Dover, Wardsboro, and Marlboro. Wardsboro and Marlboro both voted “no,” but last week in Wardsboro, a resident turned in a petition for a re-vote. A re-vote is scheduled for May 1.

If Wardsboro re-votes in the affirmative, the merger between Dover and Wardsboro will move forward as originally proposed. If Wardsboro votes “no” again, both towns will need to figure out what to do about the Act 46 at a bit of a clip. As the law is currently written, the deadline for voluntary mergers, July 1, is looming. After that date, the towns will not be eligible for tax incentives built into the law. Rep. Laura Sibilia, who is vice chair of the Dover School Board, gave an update about S. 122, which could change the timelines associated with the law.

“This is looking at creating some flexibility with Act 46,” said Sibilia. “It’s looking at extending timelines and also allowing some flexibility in side-by-sides. There will be a number of people coming to testify in support, a number to testify in opposition to Act 46, and a number coming to look for additional suggestions.”

On Tuesday, S. 122 passed the senate. It now moves onto the house.

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