Wichita students to have longer days with revised calendar

Stucky Middle School students leave school for the day earlier this year.
Stucky Middle School students leave school for the day earlier this year. File photo

Wichita students will start school later this fall, get out earlier next May and have 15 fewer school days, according to a revised calendar that school board members approved Monday night.

Each school day will be 30 minutes longer.

Board member Joy Eakins voted against the measure, saying she reconsidered options in recent weeks and decided that outsourcing the district’s custodial services would be better than lengthening the school day and trimming 15 days from the calendar.

“Sometimes leaders get to the precipice, look over the edge, think about it again, do a gut check and then step back and think about it in a different way,” Eakins said. “So that’s where I am tonight.”

The board voted 5-1 to approve the measure. Board member Jeff Davis was absent.

The new calendar, proposed as a way to trim about $3 million from next year’s budget, has most Wichita students starting school on Aug. 24. Orientation for sixth- and ninth-graders is Aug. 23.

A majority of Wichita teachers voted in favor of the measure last month. The school board on Monday approved an addendum to this year’s teacher contract noting the change, as well as a revised calendar for the 2016-17 school year.

Under the new calendar, students will go to school 158 days instead of 173. Teachers will work 175 days instead of 190. Teacher pay will be unaffected by the change.

Eakins said a longer summer break would increase the achievement gap for at-risk students and put Wichita students at a disadvantage when compared to suburban districts. Also, she said, a longer school day means some young children will be walking home during rush hour.

Lengthening the school day in high schools will add about five minutes per class period, Eakins said. “And five extra minutes a day isn’t the same as a 45-minute period over 15 days.”

Wichita enrollment will be Aug. 8-10. The calendar includes a fall break the week of Thanksgiving and a winter break Dec. 16 through Jan. 3. The last day of school is May 17.

The last day for Wichita teachers is scheduled for May 18. If the district cancels school next year for inclement weather, make-up days are scheduled for May 19, 22 and 23.

Wichita schools that start at 7 a.m. will release students at 2:40 p.m. next year instead of 2:10 p.m. Schools that start at 8 a.m. will go through 3:40 p.m., and schools that start at 9 a.m. – most elementary schools – will dismiss students at 4:40 p.m.

Higher health costs

Also on Monday, Jim Freeman, chief financial officer for the Wichita district, proposed changes to employee health insurance plans intended to replenish the district’s dwindling health care reserves.

According to the proposal, approved by an employee advisory committee, premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket maximum amounts would increase for most employees and retirees, depending on which plan they select.

Under a proposed zero-premium plan, deductibles would increase from $850 to $4,500 for individual employees and from $1,700 to $9,000 for families, Freeman said. New out-of-pocket maximums would range from $6,150 to $12,300.

Employees who select a “buy-up plan” would pay between $55 and $172 a month in premiums. Deductibles under that plan would be $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for families. Some specialist and prescription co-pays would increase under both plans.

A proposed buy-up dental plan would cost employees between $15 and $49 a month in premiums.

District officials also have proposed increases to many retirees’ medical and dental plans. The cost of health insurance for individual retirees, however, would decrease from $648 to $535 a month under the plan, Freeman said.

Board member Lynn Rogers said changes to employee health plans will mean “a cut of their pay, there’s no doubt about it.” Teachers and others will have to closely consider which plan is best for them and their families, Rogers said.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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