Spring finds Hudson still mulling winter recess

HUDSON–The Hudson City School District Board of Education continued discussing recess during inclement weather, heard about the challenge of computerized tests and discussed community use of school facilities at its meeting Monday, March 24.

For the second straight meeting, the board took up a proposal to change the temperature below which children must stay inside for recess. Right now the cutoff temperature is either 32 or 20 degrees F. depending on the school; the proposal would make it 20 degrees for all schools.

Superintendent Maria Suttmeier explained that with the policy change, individual school principals would still have the authority to keep children inside, based on weather or other circumstances, even if the temperature exceeds 20 degrees. The Board decided to continue studying the implications of this policy, at the suggestion of its vice president, Tiffany Hamilton.

The Board’s discussion of the recess issue included attention to the balance between the need for children to have appropriate winter clothing and their need to exercise. Board President Kelly Frank noted that some district children do not have adequately warm clothing.

A variety of sources donate winter apparel for children, but Ms. Suttmeier observed, many of “our kids are transient.” They move from house to house under circumstances that make it easy to leave gloves, hats and scarves behind.

The superintendent also said that with this year’s unusually severe winter, “These poor kids have been inside more than I can remember.” She expressed a goal of assuring students get “movement” during recess, even if indoors.

An obstacle to this goal is the lack of indoor space where children can run freely and safely. At John L. Edwards Primary School, the gym is usually occupied by regular physical education classes, and the multi-purpose room is often occupied by activities such as book fairs and kindergarten screening.

The board discussed adjusting class and event schedules to create play space. But someone observed that the multi-purpose room does not have enough space for multiple classes of kids “to jump around safely.”

Ms. Hamilton proposed walking children from the primary school to Third Street and back as a recess activity, but that led to a discussion of whether this would require extra monitors.

Before the Board votes on the proposal, Ms. Hamilton suggested studying how to assure that recess policy was compatible with wellness policies.

On another topic, the board heard examples of why transitioning to computerized testing will require preparing the students, no matter how comfortable they already are with technology. Currently, many students still take some standardized tests with paper and pencil. Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino said that soon math tests will require students to answer problems and to show how they got the answers, a process that often requires special symbols and notations. Students will have to know how to create or locate those symbols.

Ms. Suttmeier said that it would no longer be enough for children to be able to read a passage and to comprehend it; they will also have to accomplish those tasks using a computer. For each subject, she said, “The first time students take a test on the computer, the test is actually on computer skills.”

In other business this week the board:

Heard that while the district regularly lets outside groups use its facilities for a fee, some groups–non-profits or those deemed especially valuable for the students–can apply for a waiver to use the facilities at half price. Recent beneficiaries of this waiver have included Diata Diata International Folkloric Theater, the Hudson Junior Girls Softball League, and the Bard College Dream to Achieve program. Some user arrangements charge by the hour. And this year, Ms. Frank announced, some users have seen dramatic increases in their fees, and it is necessary to determine why.

This led to a discussion with Buildings and Grounds Superintendent George Keeler participating, about which factors to consider when determining the charge, if any, for using district facilities.

“I want our facilities to be open to community groups,” Ms. Suttmeier said. “We aren’t seeking to make a profit off them.” But she said that when the district must pay for additional custodians or other expenses, there is a cost to the taxpayers. The next Facilities Committees meeting is planned for April 1

Heard that 7th grader Gabriella Cozzolina won second place in her division at the March 22 Science Expo at Columbia Greene Community College. Her topic was The History of Aviation—Failed Attempts

Heard from district Business Executive Robert Yusko that “we’re in a holding pattern for the 2014-15 budget,” awaiting an agreement between Governor Cuomo and the legislature on school funding. The governor is seeking a property tax freeze, which Mr. Yusko said would be “devastating to schools.” A Public Conversation on Hudson school budget possibilities is planned for Wednesday, March 26, at 6 p.m. at the Primary School.

Nominating petitions for seats on the school board are due by 5 p.m. April 30. They can be picked up at the district clerk’s office at Hudson High School, 215 Harry Howard Avenue.

The next public board meeting will take place Monday, April 7, at the Junior High School library, instead of the High School. The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. preceded by a junior high curriculum workshop at 6 p.m.

 

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