Students next year will get out of school about an hour and a half early each Thursday, and high schoolers may have slightly different graduation requirements. Those were two items discussed at the Haines School Board meeting Tuesday evening.
The school board approved the 2015-2016 school calender. It includes weekly early-release days. On Thursdays, students will be dismissed from school at 1:50. The other four weekdays will be extended 15 minutes to 3:30 pm. The early dismissal day is meant to give teachers time to work on trainings and professional development each week.
The calendar sets 2016’s spring break March 21-25.
The board voted to move new high school graduation requirements to a second reading. If the changes are approved, high school students will be required to create a digital portfolio of work they accomplished in high school.
“So that when they graduate, they’ve got that portfolio to help them with whatever endeavors they’re about to embark on,” said Dean of Students Rene Martin.
High school students would also be required to take at least one online class.
“No matter where you’re working anymore, there’s a lot of times when you have to be able to take a digital class, and just even for your own curiosity to expand your own knowledge,” Martin said. “And with so many options available now, they can fulfill it in so many different ways.”
Some of the online classes Haines High students take are Psychology, French, AP Programming, and Nautical Skills. The new requirements would also give students more flexibility in social studies classes, and a choice between a Financial Literacy class or Economics.
The school board also approved a contract with a company owned by Superintendent Ginger Jewell’s husband, David Thompson.
Global School Services, or GSS, provides logistical services and purchasing to schools around the world. Jewell says they’re able to use their bulk purchasing power to buy supplies at a lower expense. The idea is that Haines School would be able to save money on big orders, like a large order of musical instruments or PE equipment.
“So for most school districts, Global Services charges an administration fee of 15 percent, and they’re waiving that for us,” said Board President Anne Marie Palmieri. “So it will not cost us anything to go through Global Services.”
Jewell said that’s because of the obvious reason –her husband owns the company. She said GSS has not contracted with any Alaska schools before.
Board member Brian Clay asked that Jewell not be the liason between the school and GSS. The board decided administrative assistant Ashley Sage should have that responsibility.
The board also heard a presentation on the ‘Engaging the Future’ initiative. A group of teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and board members have been meeting since January to brainstorm how to use technology in the most innovative ways to improve learning.
Computer Science teacher Sam McPhetres presented a slideshow with the Engaging the Future group’s recommendations. One goal is to provide one-to-one laptops or iPads for all grades. That would mean buying ten iPads and 65 Macbook Airs for next year.
School board member Sara Chapell said in order for this technology push to be effective, teachers need to be fully behind it.
“I’m not that interested, honestly, in buying all of this stuff unless our staff is really excited to take our school to another place to use it,” she said.
First grade teacher Sophia Armstrong is in the Engaging the Future group. She told the board that the elementary teachers are ‘pro-technology.’ But, she said, it would be essential to have someone to help train them on how to use tech in the classroom.
Jewell has proposed a technology specialist position that would do just that. She says the job would be funded through grants. The board has not yet approved that position.
The school board will meet on April 14th at 6 p.m. to make decisions on funding for the Engaging the Future technology, and they’ll take a second look at the budget for next school year.