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Winter storms impacting school district’s test exemption policy

Posted 2/23/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

With all of the snowstorms that have kept school buses from running so far this winter, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board members were informed on Monday, Feb. 15 that the district is struggling to keep its test exemption  policy fair to all students.
Under the district’s test exemption policy, students do not have to take final tests in their classes based on a formula that takes into consideration the number of class periods that a student has missed and their grade going into the finals. But with the flurry of storms this winter that have forced the buses to stay off the roads, the policy could create some inequities in the minds of parents and students.
“Our test exemption policy is becoming an issue with the number of days that buses haven’t been able to run,” Jay Diede, high school prinipal, informed the school board. “The problem is that since we haven’t shut down school entirely, students who live in town come to school while students that ride the bus don’t.”
And that, according to Diede, is what is creating the problem with the test exemption policy.
“How can you tell an in-town parent, whose child stays home because they are sick, that their absence counts against them when it comes to test exemption, while at the same time a student who doesn’t come to school because the bus can’t run doesn’t have those absences counted against them?” asked Diede. “It (the policy) is getting hard to manage. We can fight through it this year, but we’ll have to look at it in the future.”
To further cloud the issue, according to Pam Ramage, board member, it is common knowledge that even on those days when the buses don’t run, some country students still manage to get into town for sports practice.
While Steve Holen, district superintendent, acknowledged that the test exemption policy is being reviewed, he believes that making the call to not run buses because of bad weather has worked.
“The no bus call has been good,” stated Holen. “While we haven’t been able to run the buses on several occasions, we have still been able to have 75 percent of our students make it to school. Plus we haven’t had any no-school days so far this winter.”
During Monday night’s school board meeting, Holen also informed the board on legislation that could impact the district.
“It has been a frustrating session so far for us,” stated Holen. “Under HB 1458, school districts have been eliminated from receiving funds altogether from the County Infrastructure Fund, and it appears that small cities aren’t going to be receiving the financial help from the state that they were hoping for.”
According to Holen, the message that seems to be coming from the State Legislature is that the oil and gas funds are not about providing financial help to schools being impacted by energy development, but about helping counties.
In other business, the school board:
• Was presented with a preliminary calendar for the 2011-2012 school year which would include one additional student contact day. The Professional Development Committee will present a recommendation to a future board meeting.
•Was notified that the Watford City Education Association will be the negotiating unit for upcoming teacher negotiations.
• Approved the second reading of the district’s Tobacco Free Policy.
• Was informed that interviews are being planned for applicants for the high school music position, as well as the elementary school teaching positions.
The next meeting of the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 14.