Beloit District to release students early once per week

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BELOIT - The School District of Beloit will be releasing students an hour to an hour-and-half early every Wednesday this fall to give teachers the ability to have professional learning communities weekly to improve student achievement, according to Interim Superintendent Tony Bosco.

While offering the one-day-a-week early release, the district will provide after-school programming for all students in PreK through eighth grades for consistent pickup times and added learning opportunities.

Bosco will be updating the public on the new dismissal times and after-school programming at its televised 7 p.m. Tuesday business meeting at Kolak Education Center, 1633 Keeler Ave. A letter also was sent to parents last week notifying them of the change.

Each Wednesday, elementary students will be dismissed at 1:30 p.m.; intermediate students will be dismissed at 2:15 p.m.; and high school students will be dismissed at 2:30 p.m. Traditional release times will remain in effect on the other days of the week.

The extra time, Bosco said, will allow staff to collaborate, plan, analyze and better engage students in the learning process. During the past couple years, Bosco said, professional learning communities have been held twice a month which hasn't been consistent enough to allow educators to intensely focus on data and craft responsive instruction. In the past professional learning time has been held after school which proved challenging for teachers who were coaching.

"We really need to focus on our ongoing professional learning collaboration to help us achieve the goals we have," Bosco said.

To accommodate parents' need for consistent pickup times under the Wednesday early dismissal plan, preK through eighth graders will be eligible to be in free after-school programming. Elementary students in the after-school program would remain in school until 5 p.m. and intermediate students would remain until 5:30 p.m.

Beloit Memorial High School will just be released early at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, an hour earlier than its normal release at 3:30 p.m. Bosco said administration felt high school students are developmentally able to handle being released an hour early. However, the administration is also looking at some programming options and has applied for 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant for the high school.

Those parents who do not wish their children to be in the after-school program can pick them up, have them walk or get them bussed home at the early release time on Wednesdays.

Administration is using the parameters of Fund 80 to help fund the after-school programming in schools which currently do not have 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants.

Bosco said the district proposed raising $400,000 through Fund 80 to pay for after-school programming. To meet the part of the grant requiring community programming to serve adults, Bosco said the programming will likely include community offerings such as art or exercise classes.

A Community Program and Services Fund 80 is used to account for activities such as adult education, community recreation programs, elderly food service programs, day care services and other programs with the primary function of serving the community.

Districts may adopt a separate tax levy for a Fund 80. The limit on the Fund 80 levy disappeared as of June 30, 2015. A Fund 80 allows the district to tax above and beyond current revenue limits. Unlike other operational costs, reimbursed to the school district by state at about 75%, none of the amount the district spends on Fund 80 activities will be reimbursed by the state. This would be the first time the district would be using a Fund 80.

Whether or not the board approves the full amount for Fund 80, Bosco said the district will still be able to offer the after-school programming to students.

He also noted that the early dismissal will not impact hours, minutes or days required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

"Last year we had four professional development days, and this year we only had three professional development days to ensure required minutes," Bosco said. "The instructional minutes have been built into their year so the district has the requisite instruction."

Bosco said a big part of the after-school programs offered through Fund 80, if approved, will be community activities, outreach and partnerships. Those with the district also plan to continue relationships with the Stateline Family YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club and other partners who have been involved in after school programming previously to offer fun and engaging student activities.

Parents will receive information on signup for the after-school programming when they register their students for school in August.

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