Joplin board previews calendar for 2023-24 school year

Feb. 22—Joplin School District students will have a more than 12-day break for Christmas and half-days off for Halloween and Valentine's Day, if school board members approve a proposed calendar for the upcoming school year.

The board met for a work session Monday at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce offices and previewed the calendar, which holds 170 days of student attendance. Board members will vote on approval during their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Because of how holidays fell on the calendar, planning was difficult this year, said Sarah Mwangi, assistant superintendent of learning services, during the meeting. The awkward layout, however, gave the district a chance to equalize its semesters.

"We have a lot of landlocked dates," Mwangi said. "But the biggest thing you will notice is that the semesters are more evened out. You'll see us going longer right before Christmas, and we'll start later in the new year."

Developing school calendars has also become more difficult since Missouri established a law in 2019 banning districts from starting school earlier than 10 days before the first Monday in September, Mwangi said.

This year's calendar was developed by a special committee and approved by a majority of staff members. Mwangi said a full two weeks for holiday break was a priority among teachers and staff members.

If the calendar is approved in its current form, the first day of school will be Monday, Aug. 21, and the last day will be Friday, May 24. Christmas break will run from Dec. 22 to Jan. 8 for students, spring break will go from March 18 to 22, and students will have half-days on Halloween, Dec. 21, Valentine's Day and May 24.

In other meeting business:

—The board previewed three messaging platforms intended to establish two-way messaging between school officials and parents.

Currently the district uses a texting and messaging platform that allows the district to send messages and alerts, but not receive responses from recipients. Expanding the system is hoped to help improve attendance rates, which can bring financial boosts to the district through state and federal funding, said Superintendent Kerry Sachetta.

The district is hoping to find a robust platform that integrates with the district's student information system, and allows parents to receive updates about their children's attendance. Students could also use the system and possibly set up alerts, such as a wake-up message.

The district is evaluating three systems — two of them would have annual costs of about $32,000 to about $35,000; the third has not yet provided a price. But the district has a lot more work to do before bringing a recommendation to board members, Sachetta said.

"I'd hope we can set up something by summer," he said. "But if we can't settle on anything that checks all the boxes, we'll put it off."

—The board previewed costs for building and utility maintenance for the upcoming fiscal year.

According to meeting documentation, the district will have a total capital outlay budget of about $5,256,556. That budget will pay for a variety of projects across the district, including new school buses, replacement of a baseball field at Joplin High School, lead testing throughout the district, security upgrades, and interior remodeling projects.