Adding five minutes to the school day at Greencastle High School is the plan for the coming school year, allowing a new 20-minute club or reading period to be added to the school day.
The Greencastle School Board has approved a new school day schedule that begins the GHS school day at 7:55 a.m., and ends it at 3:10 p.m.
Principal Jim Church explained that by adding those 10 minutes to the day, and then shortening each period by one minute to have 50-minute class periods, a new club time/student reading time will be created.
The School Climate team recommended the daily 20-minute period so more students could become involved in extracurricular activities, and because teachers had also asked for that time during the day. In the past, school clubs have had to meet either before or after school. The schedule presented to the school board calls for the Spanish, French and Latin clubs to meet on Mondays while FCA, Key and Art clubs meet Wednesdays and the Pep/G Club, Thespians and GAS meet on Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are open, with student council meeting on some Thursdays. On the days when clubs are not meeting, the students can use that time for pleasure reading. That extra reading time was one of the goals of the Reading Improvement Team.
Church also presented a report to board members Jack Berry, Monica Fennell, Mike Dean and Barry Fisher on the final exam opt-out program tried at the high school for the first time at the end of the spring semester.
In an effort to improve attendance and reduce tardies, each student was given the option of choosing not to take a final exam if the student missed two or fewer days in a class period. Two hundred and one students opted out of exams and were not present at school, instead spending their class time in a pre-arranged job shadow or community service project. An additional 50-75 students opted out of tests, but remained at schools.
Since it was the first time for the program, some adjustments will be made to the guidelines, counselor Shannon Fritz told the board.
Attendance did improve for the second semester, she said, which was a goal of the program.
Board members Dean, Fennell and Fisher said they received several comments about the opt-out policy, more in fact than on other issues. Some of those comments questioned the wisdom of allowing students to skip tests which could prepare them for college.
The board voted 3-1 to allow the program to continue next year, with Fennell opposed.
As for full-day kindergarten, the board heard that the minimum funding guarantee from the state is $450 per child, which would bring in about $45,000 based on current kindergarten enrollment. That would cover a teacher salary and benefits, Supt. Robert Green told the school board.
Deer Meadow Principal Gwen Morris said parents have been surveyed, and most want the full-day program. There still are those, however, who might only want the half-day session.
"We would really like to see it as a completely full-day program," Morris said.
However, not everyone can be forced into a full-day program, Green said, so if a small group wants the half-day program, it might be offered only at one of the primary schools, and the students could be grouped at that location.
In other business, the board:
* Approved the selection process for school library materials.
* Tabled a decision on the appointment of a member to the Putnam County Public Library board.
* Recognized four retiring staff members. Paul Bretcher has served 27 years in the classroom. Sharon Byrd has served 19 years and Lola Hutson has served 11 years, both in lunch services. Sandy Nicholson has served 22 years in the classroom.
* Approved the out-of-district tuition for the next school year. If a student transfers in before the student count day, the tuition is $1,936. If it is after count day, it is $ 3,872. Transfer for half-day kindergarten is $968. That reflects a 5 percent increase.
* Approved the Title I grant for the next school year.
* Accepted a bid of $130,972 from HGB Insurance and Bonds for property-casualty insurance with Indiana Insurance.
* Heard that work has started at the high school to replace windows, doors and do building improvements. A drainage project at Tzouanakis School will also be undertaken to get rid of a problem in the school parking lot.
* Learned that information is being gathered about a buzzer entry system for all Greencastle schools that would allow visitor entry to the schools after visual approval by staff. Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert explained that other schools in the area have installed cameras and intercoms at entrances to their schools as a security measure. He said feedback from parents and staff on the project has been positive.