H-BC early start up for debate
Final public meeting Jan. 16

Next Wednesday marks the final of three public information meetings on the Hills-Beaver Creek Flexible Learning Year (FLY) schedule.

H-BC is among 25 districts in the region that are part of the FLY consortium. Three years ago the districts in the FLY group applied to the state of Minnesota to be allowed to start school two weeks before Labor Day. The application was for three years — that period is up and it is now time for districts to decide whether to apply for a second three-year FLY term. 

Superintendent Todd Holthaus has hosted two previous meetings to inform the district how H-BC has benefited from participating in the FLY program and to get a peek at future schedules.

These meetings are a chance for the public to express their opinions and learn more about the FLY program.

Participation in the second FLY application will be considered by the school board at their Jan. 28 meeting. Committed districts must submit their applications to the Minnesota Department of Education by Feb. 1, 2013. They expect a response from MDE by March 15, 2013.

In order to participate in the FLY consortium, districts must commit for the three-year application period, adopt common calendar dates, commit money to a joint fund used for FLY activities, identify a FLY Professional Development representative, commit to becoming Professional Learning Communities, and commit to create and share data with the consortium and the Minnesota Dept. of Education.

The goals of the FLY schedule are to schedule more high-impact learning time prior to high-stakes testing and to work collaboratively to improve teacher effectiveness.

These items were all part of the last agreement.

Start dates for the proposed new agreement would schedule the first day of the next school year on Aug. 19, 2013.

Being part of the consortium costs the district on a per pupil basis. The district would need to commit $10 per pupil to participate. These funds pay for administration costs and bring in national speakers and professionals for consortium-wide training days.

The last time H-BC opted to join the consortium, the board considered studies showing lost days prior to high-stakes testing can greatly impact students’ scores, particularly among low-income students.

Holthaus pointed to similar studies during his public presentations.

The districts have worked together to improve teacher effectiveness by pooling resources for professional development. These funds are used for FLY activities such as speakers, which the districts would not otherwise be able to afford on their own.

The districts also choose one representative to serve on the FLY Professional Development Team, which meets periodically throughout the year to coordinate activities.

The goal by June 30, 2013, was to demonstrate increased student learning and achievement, increased student, family, and staff satisfaction with the school calendar, and to have Professional Learning Communities and Teacher Induction Programs embedded in all consortium school districts.

Holthaus presented AYP student achievement results. He also pointed to a survey taken by 7,000 students, parents and staff members in the consortium.

The survey showed positive feelings toward ending the first semester before Christmas break, the increased preparation for testing and increased class time before tests.

In the past, some residents have expressed concerns with the FLY schedule affecting late summer family vacations and participation in the state fair.

Holthaus shared attendance at the start of the year for pre-Labor Day and Minnesota State Fair vacations. Across three years the consortium districts excused 200 to 300 of 16,000 students for vacations, while 300 to 400 were excused to attend Minnesota State Fair activities.

At H-BC there were two students that missed a total of five days for vacation and state fair-related absences.

Other concerns included having school in August in schools without air conditioning. H-BC took several steps to mitigate the heat by installing air conditioning at the elementary school.

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