FULTON — Beginning Monday, students at Caston School Corp. will start school earlier and end later in the day.
Caston school board members approved extending the school day by 50 minutes as a way to make up as much missed instructional time as possible prior to ISTEP+ testing.
Cindy Douglass, the district’s superintendent, recommended adding 25 minutes to both the beginning and the end of the school day.
“At this point, we’re looking at the least of the evils,” Douglass said.
A school board meeting was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday but had to be rescheduled to Wednesday because of winter weather. Douglass reached out to families and let them know what was going on.
During that time parents reached out and provided feedback, all of which was positive, Douglass said.
“Families have said they would prefer this to having kids in school in June,” Douglass said. “They understand desperate times call for desperate measures.”
ISTEP+ testing is weighing heavy on local administrators’ minds. One of the major concerns is students don’t know the things they need to know for upcoming high-stakes testing, Douglass said. It has become their goal to get as much time in where it is most useful — during the school year.
Students have missed 80 hours of instructional time from two hour delays and cancellations since Christmas break.
Board members had several concerns when talking about adding 50 additional minutes.
Gary Baumgardner, board member, expressed concern over the early time students would have to get on the bus. Douglass said the earliest students should be getting on the bus with the earlier schedule is 6:45 a.m.
“I hate to say it, but we’re still in winter months,” Baumgardner said. “We still might have cold weather and as it warms up we’ll have fog. My concern is we’ll miss the start time with two-hour delays.”
Douglass said she had talked with the state and found that even with a two-hour delay, the extended schedule will still be counted as making up instructional time.
Baumgardner asked if it was fair to change family’s schedules in both the morning and evening. Russell Phillips, board member, also commented that he had been contacted from a man who said it would be easier to make changes in schedule in the afternoon than in the morning. Phillips pointed out he knew it was a hard decision because it concerns several people, ranging from parents, bus drivers and teachers to students and administrators.
Jason Herd, board president, asked the reasoning behind Douglass’s recommendation.
The rationale behind the decision was that balancing the time out would be an easier transition and allow students to get into a routine, Douglass said.
Other options were looked at before the recommendation of an additional 50 minutes. When looking at the possibility of Saturday school, there weren’t many Saturdays available before ISTEP. Douglass said she was worried attendance would drop when asking students to attend school six days a week, which would defeat the purpose of having extra time before testing.
Another option looked at was adding five minutes per class period instead of 25 minutes to both the beginning and end of school
Adding a few minutes per class won’t do a lot, but the additional 25 minutes before and after will allow the instructional time to be made up, Adam Strasser, principal at Caston Jr.-Sr. High School, said.
Another draw to the extended time being split is that athletic games won’t need rescheduled, Douglass said.
Extending 50 minutes is the best option to prepare students for testing as opposed as having Saturday or tacking them on at the end of the year, Douglass said.
Phillips said he appreciated Douglass giving the school board options.
After discussing the options, board members unanimously voted to approve the adoption of 50 minutes to each school day.
The new schedule will begin Monday and continue until April 22. Board members also approved making Good Friday a regular school day. The school day for students at the junior-senior high school will be from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. and the school day for elementary students will be 8:05 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
High school students will have a rotating schedule of extended classes. The first period might be extended on Monday, the second period would be extended on Tuesday and it would continue until all classes have extra time. Then the schedule would start over.
Elementary and junior high students will prepare for ISTEP during the extra time.
More information can be found on the school’s website at www.caston.k12.in.us.
Follow @PharosAES on Twitter for live updates during area school board meetings. Caston make-up plans Scheduled make-up days are Monday to April 22 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. for Carroll Jr.-Sr. High School students 8:05 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. for elementary students