Stout talkes year-round option, new benchmarks

Mary Katherine Murphy Staff Writer

October 28, 2013

LAURINBURG — School Superintendent Rick Stout briefed more than 100 parents on the state of the school system on Monday in the first of two town hall meetings hosted by Scotland County Schools staff.

Stout’s presentation, given at Laurel Hill Elementary School, included changes in the scoring system for state end-of-grade and end-of-course tests. He did not express optimism about this year’s results, to be released next month.

“They’re resetting the bar all the way down and they want us to build back up,” he said. “Everything that we have done for the last 15 or so years has changed. The new scores are going to come out in less than two weeks and the new scores are going to be a lot lower.”

Stout said that 50 to 70 percent of the system’s students will be graded as below grade level based on the assessment results.

In addition, due to new legislation, schools will have to administer all tests within the last five days of the school year, or semester at Scotland High School.

“We have to test all students in the last five days of school in every subject area,” said Stout. “That’s going to be hard to do — as a matter of fact, it’s impossible.”

Balanced calendar

Most of the audience questions concerned the year-round schedule or “balanced calendar” presented by Stout for parent comment. Stout said that the calendar would cut summer break in half, increasing students’ retention of material from one school year to the next.

“I’m not saying that we’ll do this or recommend this or the board is going in this direction, but they want your input in terms of what you think about this calendar,” Stout said.

The calendar includes four 45-day “quarters” in each school year, with a three-day break for Thanksgiving in the second quarter. Each school year will include 15-day fall, winter, and spring breaks between quarters and a 30-day summer break between each school year.

“Those who are falling behind, in that 15 days, there would be a week where we would take them out and get them up to speed,” Stout said.

To streamline bus transportation, any transition to a year-round schedule would apply to all schools.

A survey concerning the balanced calendar will be available on the school system’s website until Nov. 1. The input of all parents and community members is requested.

“Most of our surveys that we’ve looked at so far, the first part of the survey says do you think this benefits children and a lot of the surveys are saying yes,” said Stout. “And then they say at the very end do you think we should do this and a lot of you say I don’t know about that.”

Potential downfalls of a year-round schedule include high school and middle school athletics, which would at times be conducted when school is not in session. Parents were also concerned they may have o cut vacations short.

“I am from Puerto Rico,” said Eva Gonzalez of Laurel Hill, who has three children in the school system. “The vacations that they have in the summer are the vacations we use to travel. I kind of like keeping it the way they are now.”

For others, such a calendar would allow travel at unorthodox times of year as well as making child care arrangements easier.

“I’m very interested in it — that 60 days during the summer is too much,” said Arnetra Shaw of Laurel Hill, who has a daughter at Laurel Hill Elementary. “I work, so I have to find child care during the summer for that entire time.”

Hill also praised the school system and the school for the level of communication between parents and teachers.

“I love Laurel Hill. I have a great rapport with the teachers and there’s never a question that you feel uncomfortable about asking.”

The school system will hold another town hall meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Scotland Place Civic Center on Turnpike Road.