Public comment periods rules change for Tuesday’s meeting of PC School Board

The Pulaski County School Board will meet for its June meeting this coming Tuesday. If you are planning to attend that meeting and speak during the public comment periods, be aware of some changes.

The board will hear public comments twice during the meeting – shortly after the meeting begins and again just before the end of the meeting.

That’s nothing new – there have been two comment periods during regular school board meetings for years.

What’s new, however, is starting Tuesday the board is limiting the number of speakers in the first comment period to only 10, with each speaker limited to three minutes in which to speak.

Also, those wishing to speak in that first comment period will be required to sign up in advance of the meeting – either by calling 540-994-2519 or by signing up before the meeting with the clerk or deputy clerk.

School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers, when quizzed about the changes, said, “We have changed the procedures to make sure that the folks who are there for regular school board business don’t have to wait for hours for us to make it to them on the agenda.”

Siers noted there won’t be a limit on the number of speakers for the second public comment period.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at the Pulaski County Middle School Auditorium will begin at 4:30 with a closed session. Recognitions are due to begin at 5 p.m. followed by a short reception.

During the recognitions, the school system’s Employee of the Year for 2020 and 2021 will be honored as will the Teacher of the Year.

Also, the SkillsUSA 2021 Virtual State Competition winners will be honored.

Five items are listed as information items on the meeting agenda, including an item listed as “Proposed Policy for Treatment of Transgender Students.”

Two items are listed as action items, including one pertaining to the 2022-23 school calendar.

School Calendar

At the board’s May meeting, the board decided to table until this month a decision on whether to stay with a traditional calendar for the 2022-23 school year or experiment with a “modified balanced” calendar.

The modified balanced calendar proposal was first considered for next school year (2021-22), but student, parent and faculty and staff advisory teams advocated for a traditional calendar instead. Team members felt switching to a modified balanced calendar next school year would result in an extremely short summer break and would conflict with vacation plans for employees, students and families.

There was interest, however, in considering the modified balanced calendar for the following school year (2022-23).

The modified calendar was developed from a recommendation from the Virginia Department of Education as a way to help address the learning gaps that have developed this school year due to COVID.

Siers has said in past discussion of the calendars that schools will be working for the next decade to make up for what was lost during the last two school years due to COVID.

The modified balance calendar includes intercession breaks throughout the year at the end of each nine weeks with school closed for two-week periods. Teacher workdays, professional development days and parent-teacher conference days are held during these breaks.

The last day of school for the year would be around June 10 and schools re-open around the first of August.

Advantages of the modified balanced calendar include:

  • Lessens the “summer learning loss” for students’ retention of knowledge and skills.
  • Shorter but more frequent breaks during the school year lessens the likelihood of students experiencing prolonged periods of food insecurity.
  • Frequent breaks during the year have shown to decrease the stress levels of students and teachers.
  • Families have more options for vacations.
  • Breaks each season would allow time for students to participate in activities that aren’t available in the summer.
  • Appointments can be scheduled during breaks during the school year instead of during instructional days.

Disadvantages include:

  • Childcare concerns during the intercession breaks.
  • Fewer summer employment opportunities
  • Scheduling issues for extra-curricular activities

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot