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School board votes against preemptive snow days proposal

All 320 geothermal wells completed at Kingswood site

May 06, 2010
WOLFEBORO — Every spring as the school year nears completion, the district's students, teachers, staff and administration stay busy with senior events, graduations, scholarship awards, retirement receptions and various other end-of-the-year activities.

Among these activities is the annual joint boards meeting and dinner that the Governor Wentworth Regional School Board holds with school board members from Barnstead, Alton and Moultonborough – all schools whose students attend the programs at the Region 9 Vocational Center. Held this year on the evening of May 3 at the Skylight Dining Room, board members agreed that both the culinary arts and hospitality program students who catered to the crowd did an excellent job. While the dinner and desserts were delicious and the hospitality students were very attentive, board members leaving the event were heard commenting on what a great program the Vocational Center offers.

Following the dinner, members of the Governor Wentworth School Board reconvened for a regularly-scheduled board meeting.

The meeting began with a discussion, continued from the board's April meeting, on whether to change the district's 2010-11 school calendar to include two preemptive Saturday make up days in early October and November. The Saturday school days are a way for the district to make up snow days as they occur, rather than adding additional make up days to the end of the school calendar in June.

At the board's request, in April the administration presented a draft calendar including the two Saturday school days scheduled for Oct. 16 and Nov. 13 (weeks where a four-day week is currently scheduled in order to observe Discovery Day and Veterans Day, respectively), and four more alternate days, as well.

When presenting the draft calendar, Superintendent Jack Robertson explained that it had been discovered that Nov. 13 also serves as the date for the annual ski and skate sale put on every year by the Wolfeboro Area Children's Center in the Kingswood gymnasium. Upon discussing the negative impacts holding school on this day would have on the Children's Center's Sale, the Governor Wentworth Education Association (GWEA), along with the administration, agreed that it did not want to disrupt the sale which is such a vital fundraiser for the Center.

Because of this conflict, Saturday, Sept. 11 was suggested by GWEA as an alternate make up day, but was met with opposition by the administration, who felt that having the four day week in early September is beneficial for young students adjusting to the school days.

Several board members also agreed that September was too early to hold a preemptive make up day for snow, and the majority voted to keep the calendar as adopted, with five allocated potential make up days scheduled.

This past winter the district held two well-attended Saturday make up days on Jan. 16 and Feb. 13. Because of this, students and staff will be getting out by June 4, as planned, in order to open up the buildings for construction workers to begin Phase II of the Kingswood renovation and expansion project.

In the April 8 edition of the Granite State News it was reported in the coverage of the April 5 school board meeting that Superintendent Jack Robertson was contacted by Maureen Wheeler, a high school health and wellness education teacher, who suggested the scheduling of these Saturday make up days for the upcoming school calendar. However, the Granite State News later found out that Wheeler was speaking on behalf of the Governor Wentworth Education Association (GWEA), of which she is president. The idea of the preemptive snow days had come up at an earlier GWEA meeting, where it was agreed that six days of school, one day off, and then five more days of school was tough on students, especially those in the elementary school.

Building update

Chair of the Building and Maintenance Committee Ernie Brown brought the board up to speed on the progress being made at the Kingswood complex building project site. What had become a familiar sight to those passing by – the torn-up field covered with mountains of dirt and multiple drilling machines – has been transformed into a torn up field with mountains of dirt but no drilling machines. All of the approximately 320 wells needed for the complex's new geothermal heating and cooling system have been drilled and are expected to be grouted by the end of the week. As they grout the wells, the field is being covered and work on the base for the new turf field has begun. The geothermal system has been tied into the new multipurpose building, whose walls are going up fast. The crew anticipates the completion of the bleachers by the end of the week. The stonework underneath the bleachers, housing a concession stand and six separate storage spaces, has been completed, as well.

One aspect that has become a bit of a task for the crew is matching up a phone system that will work between the multipurpose and high school/ middle school buildings. Brown said the outdated 45-year-old phone system, which is currently used in the high school, would be replaced with a system that could hopefully tie the district together.

Once school is out for the summer, priority will be given to removal of all asbestos from within the existing buildings, so that the interior renovation of the main building can begin.

Other business

Robertson reported that the Senate recently voted NH Bill 1469 "inexpedient to legislate." That bill, which was favored by the school board, along with the New Hampshire School Boards Association, stated that the "school board of every district shall provide standard schools for at least 180 days in each year, or the equivalent number of hours as required in the rules of the department of education at such places in the district as will best serve the interests of education and give to all the pupils within the district as nearly equal advantages as are practicable."

If passed, the bill would have given back local control over school calendars. After testifying first in front of the House and then the Senate, Robertson felt confident the bill would pass, as the committee received all positive feedback at both hearings. However, after the fact during an executive session when no public input was allowed, the Senate Educational Committee received new testimony in the form of a letter written by New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Virginia Barry. Barry's letter argued against the bill, and with no chance for rebuttal the Committee voted 4-1 inexpedient to legislate.

Robertson shared his disappointment in Barry's letter, stating that much of the language was not relevant to the bill itself. Barry spoke less about local control over calendar planning and more about the number of school days required in a calendar, which was not the issue. Robertson said that though this was a "big disappointment," the bill would be sponsored again in November.

Board member Donald Meader announced that all of the district's school busses recently passed the State school bus inspection, a feat in itself, as the inspection requirements have become increasingly tough in recent years. According to Meader, the transportation department and its staff deserve credit for this accomplishment.

The board voted to approve the extension of its Primex Insurance Agreement for an additional three years. Primex, which has been the district's insurer for workmen's compensation and property and liability insurance for several years now, offered the district a 7.5 percent discount off current rates if it signed a multi-year contract expiring in 2013. Because of this decision, Robertson concluded the district would pay $40,000 less for insurance protection than it had three years ago.

The board will meet again at the end of the month on Monday, May 24 at 7 p.m. in the Region 9 Vocational Center.

Heather Terragni can be reached at 569-3126 or hterragni@salmonpress.com

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