Fairmont shortening school day

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area School Board has approved a schedule change that will shave 15 minutes from the school day beginning in September.

The high school will begin classes at 8:30 a.m. and be dismissed at 3 p.m. The elementary will begin at 8:15 a.m. and dismiss at 2:55 p.m.

The change is being implemented to allow for regular professional development times for teachers during the eight-hour contract day.

At the high school, teachers will meet five days per week, beginning at 7:30 a.m., for 45 minutes. Each day, teachers will have a different topic to address, including technology, curriculum and grade-level meetings. Elementary teachers will meet at the close of the school day, from 3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Elementary Principal Jim Davison said the new schedule will give teachers the time to learn new methods and research topics required by the state.

“Our goal is to improve students academically,” he said. “As a result, we need to constantly be looking at new research and methods.”

Teachers met in Professional Learning Communities for that purpose each week last year, but many found one 45-minute meeting did not offer enough time.

School board member Nicole Green said people need not be concerned about the 15-minute shorter school day since Fairmont students are still in class longer than the state requirement by 15.9 days in the elementary and 6.32 days at the high school.

“Even though this school day is shorter,” she said, “as we see what the teachers do in their PLCs implemented into the classroom, it will be time well spent.”

Superintendent Joe Brown said teachers have had an opportunity to respond and question the new schedule. While the district did take some comments into consideration, there are still some teachers who are not happy with the plan.

At a previous school board meeting, Joe Strukel, the Q-comp coordinator at the high school, expressed concern about the new schedule keeping teachers so busy they many not want to participate in teacher leadership positions.

Green said the Professional Learning Communities time will count toward some of the Q-comp requirements but, more importantly, Q-comp is a stipend program.

“It is like coaching,” she said. “It isn’t something that is expected to be done completely during the school day.”

Brown said fewer teachers have signed on for teacher observation positions, but he does not believe that it is due to the new schedule.

The new schedule may continue to be tweaked in coming weeks as the district finalizes its schedule with Minnesota Motor Bus.