The first day of the 2018-19 school year has essentially been set, even though the full calendar for the upcoming academic year has not yet been approved. Students will return for the new school year Aug. 20, but some of what happens after that remains up in the air.

The Redwood Area Board of Education saw two calendar proposals during its meeting Feb. 26, and while one of them would be relatively similar to the current calendar, the other includes what was the main topic for discussion as it relates to the new calendar – a five-day break in March.

“This is the third year of our current FLY calendar,” said Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent, adding as the district leadership team began putting the calendar for the coming year together there was some discussion about adding a spring break.

The idea of a week-long spring break is not new to the local school district. For a number of years a break was part of the calendar, but the school board opted to move away from the break. The plan would be to implement the break in between the third and fourth quarters as a way to provide time away during the second semester.

Yes, said Ellingworth, there are concerns about adding the break, as the dates (March 11-15) are during the winter athletic season. Prior to the calendars being presented to the school board, the school district’s staff had the chance to look at them and vote on which it preferred. 

The overwhelming majority of teachers (67.5 percent) and a majority of the paraprofessionals and office staff (56 percent) voted in favor of the calendar that included the week-long spring break. One of the arguments made is that offering a spring break would allow for families to schedule a specific window in the school year to take a vacation.

Ellingworth added that was part of the original assumption when the spring break week had been implemented in the past, and he said that did not always keep families from scheduling vacations during other times of the year.

Members of the board said having this discussion now is part of a bigger picture discussion will need to have as it considers whether or not to move forward with FLY in the future. Should the school district move back to a post-Labor Day start, the assumption is that a spring break would not be included in the calendar, as that would push the school year into June.

Ellingworth said having an early start date along with the spring break next year would still allow the district to be finished with school in May. The board opted to table the discussion regarding the 2018-19 calendar until its March meeting.

In other action during its meeting, the Redwood Area Board of Education:

• Approved recommendations proposed for the community education department for the 2018-19 school year. The recommendations include an increase in the fee per month for School Readiness from its current cost of $120 to $145, Ready, Set Grow (four-year-old program) from $120 to $145, Ready, Set Grow (three-year-old program) from $100 to $110 and Discovery Time from $55 to $65. According to Andy Ourada, Redwood Area School District community education director, the school board approved an increase from $2.50 to $3 per hour for the Cardinal Kids Club one year ago, and this increase would put other programs in line with that hourly rate. Based on current projections, these increases would result in increased revenue of about $19,000.

A second recommendation was to reduce the transportation options for the preschool program. Families currently pay a $25 per month fee for transportation, but the actual cost of the program is $29,000. The recommendation approved by the school board would limit the transportation offerings to inside the city limits of Redwood Falls with one bus being used for transportation. The fee would increase to $40 per month. The change would reduce the costs for transportation by $20,000.

• Approved the 2018-19 Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative contracts, in-cluding cooperative membership, health and safety management assistance, basic technology services, special education services (teacher of deaf/hard of hearing, regional early childhood special education coordination and program management) and behavior analyst services at a cost of $79,279.33. The contract amount was reduced from the $130,394.96 the district is paying this school year, as it has opted to not request services for physical therapy and shared human resources services.

• Approved the recommendation for purchase of items through the joint city-school account. The advisory committee proposed the purchase of re-placement of bikes and several free weight bars for the fitness center, replacement of the baseball pitching machine wheel, a gymnastics mat and the scoreboard at Memorial field at a total cost of $12,873.76. The committee anticipates additional sponsorship funds for the Memorial Field scoreboard.