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Nashville district continues ‘hybrid’ calendar discussion

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By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

More than 100 Nashville School District patrons attended a meeting Dec. 19 for a discussion of the proposed hybrid calendar for the 2024-25 academic year.

They heard a presentation from Superintendent Doug Graham and had the opportunity to ask questions about the calendar. 

Graham reviewed many of the points he had made at an earlier meeting and added information about other districts which have switched to similar schedules.

The hybrid calendar requires the same number of student attendance days – 178 – as the traditional calendar, Graham said. Teachers are still on contract for 190 days. The hybrid provides longer, more frequent breaks and has helped improve attendance among students and teachers in other districts, he said.

“Students and teachers don’t attend like they used to. Paying substitutes has been an issue. We addressed it in August with the school board by giving incentives to teachers to get them to come,” Graham said.

Teacher burnout and student burnout “have gotten real,” Graham said. “Burnout is a real issue. I’m not apologizing for being concerned. Mental health is a big issue among students. It’s one thing the calendar may address.”

Graham said he has “been on the traditional calendar for 59 years” as a student, teacher and administrator. “I’m trying to find something a little out of the box to grow on and improve on.”

Referring to the number of required days for students and teachers – 178 and 190 – Graham said “folks need to understand numbers. Teachers will be working 190 days. As [NJHS teacher] Johnny Wilson told me, ‘190 is 190.’”

More frequent breaks “should increase student and teacher attendance. Learning loss should improve.”

Vacation possibilities for families should increase. “They’re scattered throughout the year,” according to Graham.

One of the concerns which Graham has heard from parents has been childcare during those breaks. “We will offer childcare at school during the breaks. Parents are responsible for childcare 187 days on either calendar. On the hybrid, you can send kids to school during the breaks, and parents won’t be scrambling for childcare. Daycare will be there” in the form of enrichment and other educational activities.

The Hamburg district is on a hybrid calendar similar to the one Nashville is considering, Graham said. “They have about 1,800 students and similar demographics to ours. The first nine weeks, they cut 1,000 absences from what they had the same time in 2022. They saw a 66 percent increase in teacher attendance.”

When rested students are in class with rested teachers instead of substitutes, “Learning is better. Who wins? Your babies. It’s a win-win for kids,” Graham said.

Hamburg conducted a survey before the fall semester ended to determine faculty and district patrons’ reactions to the hybrid calendar. “Nobody wanted to go back to the traditional calendar,” Graham said.

Other districts, including Marion, have reported similar opinions, according to Graham.

The hybrid calendar could be a way to improve students’ test scores, Graham said.

“Our scores are stagnant. Our school report card showed C’s on three campuses and a B on one. There is some indication that students benefit from the enrichment and remediation programs on the hybrid. Students see an increase in academic performance,” Graham said.

“Don’t confuse that I said the hybrid is a cureall, but if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we won’t get different results.”

Graham answered a number of questions from the audience, including the following:

Summer church camps – “We go to the end of May now. If we miss days, we have to make them up in June” under state law, which eliminated the AMI days used in the past. “At least in the hybrid, we can make them up before June,” which might help camps. 

Cost of remediation and enrichment during breaks – “We’ve never denied money for kids. If it costs extra to educate kids on the days off, I’ll have a smile on my face.”

ABC school schedule – “I don’t know about ABC. They’re not under our jurisdiction.” Graham said he would ask during a later meeting with ABC.

Types of enrichment programs – “They’re not laid out now. All of it’s open. We have an operating balance of $7 million. We can finance enrichment with some of it.”

Test results from Hamburg – “There’s no test data yet. This is their first year on the hybrid.”

Accountability for attendance – “We hold students and teachers accountable. We’ve sent more [student absence cases] to Judge [Bryan] Chesshir this year than in the past. It’s not a cureall. Teachers get a certain number of leave days, then they get docked about $300 per day.”

Concerns from UA-Cossatot – The differences between the traditional and hybrid calendars were noted, Graham said. Students who take concurrent classes on the Nashville High School campus will follow Nashville’s schedule, attendees were told at a previous session.

Graham invited those who have additional questions to contact him at the district’s administration building.

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