Conway hopes to change first day of 2018 school year; waiver request in works

The Conway Board of Education approved a request to send a waiver to state officials regarding the first day of the 2018 school year during its regular meeting Nov. 14.

 

Superintendent Greg Murry said state law requires that school start the week of Aug. 19. While that day fell on a Saturday last year, the 19th falls on a Sunday for the next school year, meaning the first available day for school to start would be Aug. 20.

Murry said Conway Director of Personnel Karen Lasker came back from a meeting recently and said some districts were asking for a waiver to begin on another day and they heard some were approved.

“Because it’s a state standard and a state law, we have to seek a waiver from the [Arkansas] Department of Education and the [Arkansas] State Board of Education in order to start earlier,” he said. “I do think Aug. 20 is late to start school. It does cause the two semesters of school to be unequal.”

While they could ask for the Aug. 13 waiver, Murry added that they could actually start school on the Aug. 14.

According to the resolution, starting the school year later would also reduce preparation time for state testing and limit flexibility in scheduling inclement weather make-up days for the district.

During the meeting, the board also approved the time frame for the future school board election.

Murry reminded the board that state law changed this legislative session to require board elections in May or November, moving from the regular September date.

The board approved the election to be “held on the date of the preferential primary election in even-numbered years” and the date that would be “designated as the preferential primary election in odd-numbered years if a general election was held in the odd-number year.”

“The wording is confusing to say the least,” Murry said. “It’s like figuring out when Easter is. Primaries are difficult to understand.”

Board members also heard the district’s 2017 annual report presented by communication specialist Heather Kendrick.

“The annual report is definitely one of my big projects that I do in this position, so I’m really excited tonight is the night that we get to reveal it to you all,” she said.

According to the information collected, Kendrick said the district hit a milestone with 10,001 students throughout the 16 schools enrolled in the 2017-18 school year as of Oct. 1, with free and reduced lunches sitting at 49.1 percent. She said in the last few years they have hovered below that 50 percent line.

Board member Bill Clements asked Kendrick where the majority of the schools in the state sit and she said they are on the low end with Murry adding that 80 percent of the schools are higher than Conway.

While the district has a highest population of Caucasian students — 56.5 percent — other demographics were represented as well with 28.7 percent African Americans and 10.1 percent Hispanic.

Kendrick also brought attention to the extracurricular activities of students, including 704 in choir, 841 in band and 301 in orchestra as well as 570 students in 27 art classes and 500 students enrolled in career tech education programs.

“We look at our [core values] and we look at students first and we work really hard in our district to maximize both the experiences and the potential of our students,” she said. “This is just a snapshot of all the different things we offer not just at Conway High School but throughout our district.”

Kendrick pointed out the three perfect ACT scores that were earned, 625 total graduates, $12,904,397 in scholarship awarded with eight national merit scholars, 529,628 breakfasts served, 44,639 visits to the nurse.

“But, notice 39,819 sent back to class,” she said, garnering laughter from the room.

The board also:

• Recognized board member Andre’ Acklin who is now the region 8 member of the Arkansas State Board Association Board of Directors.

• Recognized board member Diane Robinson for attaining the Arkansas School Board Association’s Outstanding Board Member Status.

• Approved a resolution adopting the district’s facilities master plan dated Feb. 1, 2018.

• Approved six resignations and two elections.

 

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