WORTHINGTON — As part of a complex discussion on transportation for the coming school year, the District 518 school board committees looked at the possibility of moving the Worthington High School start time to 8:30 a.m. in order to accommodate transportation needs.

When the planned intermediate school is finished, the high school would move to a later start time anyway, Superintendent John Landgaard told the instructional committee. If the board approves this change, school would let out around 3:30 or 3:40 p.m.

"I've been pushing for this for several years," said board member Linden Olson, "so we might as well do it now."

A later start has the potential to affect before- and after-school activities, so board members will take that into account as they think it over prior to voting on the change at next week's regular school board meeting.

Also relevant to the transportation concern is the fact that although District 518 officially has a no-bus radius drawn for each of its schools, the district has not been enforcing this boundary and allowing almost all students to ride the bus if they like.

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The official policy is that Prairie Elementary students who live with one-half mile of the school, and WMS and WHS students who live within one mile, are not eligible for district busing and must find their own way to school. Landgaard explained in both committees that Bud's Bus Service, which contracts with the district to provide busing, has asked that that radius be enforced in order to facilitate compliance with state regulations.

The state is requiring that due to coronavirus, buses only be run at half capacity. That's much easier to accomplish if only the kids who are supposed to be taking the bus are on the bus, it was noted.

Representatives from Bud's Bus Service participated in the operations committee meeting Tuesday morning, during which time members considered options for busing if the district were to move toward more kids in school throughout the course of the year. The committee favored a two-tiered bus route, but the full board will have to vote before a final decision is made.

As noted in last week's special school board meeting, transportation is one of the limiting factors in getting kids back in school, so the board is carefully considering the available options.

Board member Adam Blume told the instructional committee that Marshall schools sent out a parent survey asking how many parents plan to drive their kids to school in the coming year. Could District 518 do something similar, he asked, if it would help the district move toward a less restrictive learning model?

While not completely opposed to the idea, Landgaard expressed concern that surveys are only effective if everyone is represented. The district would have to have a strong community response in order for the information to be useful.

Grading

Given the unique circumstance of the coronavirus pandemic, an adjustment to the grading scale for older students might be in order, said WHS Principal Josh Noble. Distance learning calls for a "pass" grade to be available, he explained, adding that although teachers were very flexible with giving out such grades in the spring, students have had practice with distance learning at this point, so more accountability is in order.

Noble proposed a grading scale of 100%-90%=A, 89%-80%=B, 79%-70%=C, 69%-55%=Pass and below 55%= No Credit. Pass and No Credit grades would not affect a student's GPA, but a No Credit would require the student to retake the class.

While the percentage scale would act as a rough guide, grades should also be based on mastery of essential skills of the course, Noble added.

Also in committee meetings:

  • Members considered the need to replace the baseball stadium bleacher seats. All of the bleachers and press box could also use replacing, but the seats are a minimum. The full board will consider options next week.
  • Landgaard told members that District 518 has been allotted about $850,000 in CARES Act funding, which will help expand student services and technology access.
  • New Title IX officers were appointed in accordance with a change to federal law: a Title IX coordinator, investigator, decision maker and appeals decision maker.
  • The district's pay scale has been brought into compliance with pay equity standards. The board must approve administration's report before it is sent to the state.