Grand View Public Schools is dropping down to a four-day week for the rest of this school year to help offset financial losses and cuts received from the state.
Marty Kimble, president of the Grand View Public School Board of Education, said the decision to cut the remaining Fridays from the schedule was made during Thursday evening’s school board meeting.
“There’s only four days that we actually had to call off and they were technically snow days,” Kimble said. “I know it’s not a popular decision with all parents, but most of the parents we talked to, and the one who showed up at last night’s meeting, were for taking the rest of the Fridays off. The problem with most of these cost-saving solutions is that they’ll have negative impacts as well.”
Kimble said the only days the school is actually taking off will be April 1, 8, 15 and 22, because school was already scheduled to be out April 29. Kimble said it’s harder to take off days earlier in the year due to testing, and the school will meet its state-mandated minimum number of hours, regardless of the change.
Kimble said that in April, the board will be voting on whether to change next year’s schedule to a four-day week, and he added that the option is “definitely on the table.” Kimble said he’d like to see parents become more involved and vocal in pushing the state government to better fund education.
“Parents need to contact their state representative and kindly request they do something about school funding,” Kimble said. “One of the things we see and hear about is the tax credits. Why should we be giving tax credits to companies that are going to drill here, anyway, especially when school are struggling?”
Children are out of school this week, and area libraries are doing what they can to keep students entertained.
Monday afternoon, the Tahlequah Public Library hosted a science event during which kids learned how to make their own paper airplanes. Participants made simple planes, a more complicated “master plane,” and a special kind of plane called a “hoop glider,” using a straw and paper shaped into a loop.
Jane Adams, library clerk at TPL, used to be a teacher, and she said creating airplanes is an entertaining and effective way to teach kids about the physics of flight. Adams even used a ping-pong ball and a hair dryer to show the youngsters how lift and air resistance works.
“When I taught school, one of our units was physics, and we did an airplane experiment that was a little more involved than this one,” Adams said. “But at the end, we would make airplanes and gliders, and the kids always really liked it, so we thought we could try to do something like that for Spring Break.”
Adams said it’s a good project because not just because the kids get to learn in a fun way. Many of them nowadays have never made paper airplanes, so it’s a fresh and unique activity.
“It’s relatively simple: If you don’t have experience folding, that’s probably the hardest part,” Adams said. “It looks hard, and it is hard at first, because the directions seem incomprehensible. Once you’ve done it a few times, though, you can whip them out pretty fast, but usually the kids enjoy getting to make them and fly them.”
Hunter Ford, a fourth-grader at Grand View Elementary, didn’t know how to make paper airplanes before going to Monday’s event, and he said he was surprised at how well the hoop glider flew. He heard about the event at his school’s literacy fair and was interested in learning how to make airplanes.
“I like building and tinkering with things,” Hunter said. “I like taking stuff apart and trying to put to put them back together again.”
He was happy the library offered the airplane science class and said it gave him something to do besides sitting around at home during Spring Break.
“It’s something fun to do and to get out of the house,” Ford said. “That way you’re not just watching TV. The library is a fun place, and every once in a while, they have projects like these, but I like to come down here every once in a while, anyway, to see how it’s changed.”
Stephanie Alonso brought her son, Jayden, to the airplane science event. She said Jayden wanted to learn how to make different kinds of paper airplanes, so she thought it would be a fun way to start Spring Break.
“He only knew how to make one kind of airplane and he wanted to learn more,” Stephanie said. “I found out about the event on Facebook, but I also go the library’s adult coloring book event.”
Stephanie frequents the library and considers it a good resource for families and kids, especially while students are out of school.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom right now, and with them being home with me, I can just bring them over here for any kind of event they are having, and they enjoy it,” Stephanie said.
Six-year-old Jayden, a kindergartner at Briggs Elementary School, said learning about the ping-pong ball was his favorite part. He’s going to show his cousins how to make the paper airplanes, but probably not the hoop glider.
“I’m going to keep that one as my secret,” Jayden said.
Rural schools are hurting in the wake of state budget cuts, and administrators are trying desperately to save money wherever they can. Four-day weeks, reduced transportation and staff cuts have become last-resort options for Oklahoma schools, and Grand View Public Schools is no different.
Superintendent Ed Kennedy thinks the discussions among his team members are similar to those being held across the state. He and other staffers have been going to various workshops and meetings, looking for ideas to help with the budget crisis.
“Everyone is hosting these because it is such a dire situation,” Kennedy said. “People are looking at strategies and what to do, and they talk about everything from personnel policies to things you can do with transportation, and the things we’re doing right now are going to carry over to next year.”
Kennedy will be talking to the school board about a couple of alternate calendars, and one of those will feature a four-day school week.
“We entertained that once before, and I have some experience with that at another school I was at,” he said. “It’s not a tremendous savings, but it saves on buses and bus routes, it saves on child nutrition costs, and it saves on wear and tear of facilities as well as facility costs.”
Kennedy said the school will also be eyeing personnel reduction, and in that respect, Grand View may have a bit more wiggle room than others.
“We don’t have much in the way of attrition, as far as retirement and things like that,” Kennedy said. “But we’ve got a situation where if someone is on temporary contract, you aren’t bound to rehire them. We’ll give a letter to those people so they know they can look for another job because we aren’t guaranteeing them any re-employment next year.”
Kennedy doesn’t think Grand View would go to the extent of eliminating buses because of the constraint it would put on parents. He said there’s a possibility of moving to hybrid routes, similar to inclement weather routes, where students would meet at a more centralized pick-up spot.
“The problem with that is, all of a sudden, you’re picking up 30 students at one time and they’re all waiting there,” Kennedy said. “Then you’ve got the discipline issue of older kids and younger kids there all mixed together, so that concerns us.”
He pointed out that many people don’t realize providing transportation is not mandatory.
“It is something schools get a reimbursement for but we elect to do,” Kennedy said. “The problem with that is the formula used to fund it hasn’t been changed since the ‘80s. With gas prices what they are now, it isn’t as big a deal, but when it was $4.25 a gallon two or three years ago, it was very painful.”
Margaret Carlile, federal programs director at Grand View, said the school isn’t just focusing on changes for next year, but actions are being taken this year to save money. End-of-year out-of-town trips, excluding those funded by extracurricular groups, are among the examples of activities being curtailed.
“We put the lid on purchasing,” Carlile said. “We’re metering our copier, along with other things. We’re trying to not buy disposable items, except where we have to. We’re looking at what we spend on paper towels, and we’ve been looking every place we could possibly get a lower bid on things. We’re trying to get everyone to shut doors, turn of lights and shut down the computers. We’ve been going down the checklist, trying to find what else we could do.”
Kennedy said continued cuts to Oklahoma education will have immediate and long-term effects on the state, and teachers have already approached him saying they are unable to continue working in such a stressful environment.
“I have a teacher who has kind of thrown up her hands and sees the writing on the wall for education in Oklahoma, and she’s an Oklahoma native,” Kennedy said. “She’s given us her resignation. She said she isn’t going to fight the battle and get too far into the retirement system only to find out she’s made a decision to stay in a state that isn’t going to fund education. So she’s going to go to
Texas and make $10,000 to $15,000 more just by crossing the border.”
Kennedy believes teachers will be jumping ship in escalating numbers.
“It’s like if I have a good apple tree but every year I prune it back further and further, and then suddenly wonder why I don’t get a basket full of apples in the fall – well, heck, I’ve cut every limb off the dadgum thing,” he said. “What they’re doing in some instances is pruning the tree back so far that it dies, yet they are still advocates of there being too many school districts.”
Carlile said this battle for funding has been going on since 2009, when Oklahoma led, and continues to lead, the nation in budget cuts to education.
“Schools have been operating in the cut, contain, cut, contain mode. We’ve done as little harm as we could each year, and I think parents, teachers and the general publichave gotten complacent,” Carlile said. “Because until now, we’ve been able to pretty much sustain sports and music and trips. Now we’ve hit the point where we can’t keep doing this, and suddenly it’s a crisis. Schools will have had such grievous harm that teachers will go to Texas or Arkansas, and the most important thing in a classroom is to have an experienced and qualified teacher.”
Kennedy added that once South Dakota’s recent increase in state and use tax goes into effect, Oklahoma will rank the lowest in the nation for teacher pay.