Finding more one-on-one time not an easy task
After-school meeting times could be problematic
A district plan to make it easier for high school students and teachers to meet outside a busy block schedule ran into a bit of a buzz saw Tuesday as School Board members and special education parents raised several significant concerns.
The plan would create a 23-minute meeting time, from 2:12 p.m. to 2:35 p.m., on early release Thursdays.
Board members voiced concerns including the length of meeting times and special education parents pointed out flaws affecting compliance with federally mandated individualized education programs.
The board decided to delay the scheduled vote until May 8 so the district can address the issues raised. If approved, the plan will go into affect next school year, though some parts of it may be tested before the end of this year.
Time a factor
"Twenty-three minutes is too short a time to do this," Board President Tom Gehl said. Members Glen Allgaier and Meg Wartman agreed, saying the schedule leaves little time once a student travels to a meeting after his or her last class.
Superintendent Matt Gibson suggested that the time period could be extended to 30 or 35 minutes to accommodate valuable meeting time. Principals Don LaBonte of Central and Dan Pavletich of East were open to the idea.
Getting students home
Transportation was another issue, with the plan providing one bus at each school for students who stayed late for meetings at their respective schools.
"I just don't feel comfortable with one bus at each school getting students home in a timely manner," said Wartman, who added that it would be difficult to pre-schedule a route because there likely would be a different group of students needing transportation each week.
Board member Bob Ziegler said it would be good to know the grade breakdown of students needing the meetings because it is likely that juniors and seniors drive themselves to and from school. In some cases, LaBonte said, student drivers also may be second-semester sophomores.
Allgaier suggested that the district use all four buses they have committed to instead of starting out with just one at each school.
"Why not start with all the buses you have and cut back if needed instead of the possibility of not providing adequate service at the beginning," he questioned.
Transportation costs, according to the district, would be about $5,000 per bus for the year.
Complicating those issues were educational and compliance concerns raised by parents of special needs students.
"My son is a junior at Central and he would not benefit from an after-school meeting time," Kim Workman said. "He uses so much energy just getting through the day that he comes home and sleeps."
Other parents raised similar concerns and said the district is not meeting their child's needs within the school day.
Further discussion centered on whether a broader issue exists in meeting the needs of the district's high school special education students.
"We want to come up with the best possible plan," Gehl said. "Meeting all the needs of every student in the district is an unattainable goal."
Sally Flaschberger, parent of a special education student and an advocacy specialist with Disability Rights Wisconsin, said there are consequences to not meeting some needs of special education students.
She noted that special education students have individualized education programs that may be far different from the district's student/teacher period. It can be personalized instruction by a special education teacher who comes into a regular education classroom to work with a student.
Pointing out that IEPs are part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004, Flaschberger said: "It's meant to be individualized. It's important because if you don't do it right, you are out of compliance."
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