Petersburg School Board has been holding recent public meetings via Ring Central. (Photo courtesy of Mara Lutomski/PSD)

Petersburg School Board approved a calendar for the next school year at their last meeting. The calendar looks a lot like recent years even though there are still many unknowns in terms of what school will actually be like next year. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

There will still be three days off in November for Thanksgiving, two weeks in December for a winter break, and one week in mid-March for a spring break. The school year will start on August 31 and the last day of school will be June 2.

The school board surveyed families and students about the possibility of splitting spring break into a few shorter breaks. Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter says most responses included a variety of constructive comments.

“As I always tell people with calendars if you put out three, you’ll get thirty percent, if you put out two you’ll get fifty-fifty, it’s just fascinating,” said Kludt-Painter. “This is 29 years for me doing calendars and I’ve never seen it any different.”

Still, the majority of responses were from people who wanted to keep a long spring break in place for possible travel out of town.

But setting the calendar is only part of the story. What will the average school day actually look like? This year class sizes have been limited to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but is that what will happen in the fall? Will the district need to hire six extra teachers again?

Kludt-Painter says there are still a lot of unknowns.

“Unknowns with enrollment; still not sure what protocols will look like even with vaccinations,” she said. “So, there could be some impact on number of staff members needed if we’re still trying to spread kids out which is still what we’re being recommended to do at this point because there’s not really a plan for what that might look like for children next year. So, we have a lot of unknowns.”

Also, she says, it’s not known whether or not the state will allow the school district to carry over more than ten percent of its savings like they did last year.

Kludt-Painter says it’s difficult to plan because on the one hand they need to start making decisions for next year but at the same time, they have to remain flexible as recommendations come in from local, state, and federal health officials.

“Trying to adjust when things do change because there have been some things that have changed this year. We don’t do things exactly as we did in September and we continue to learn and evolve,” Kludt-Painter said. “And how strict will all those things need to continue to be in the fall and we’re going to learn a lot between now and September.”

School Board President, Sarah Holmgrain said, “It’s hard.” She’s been on the school board for about a decade and says this has been the most challenging year to plan.

“I think this has got to be the hardest year because even with when we would have budget constraints it was the same ship but how do we make it cost less?” she said. “Now we’re still dealing with a really weird ship.”

Holmgrain says she’s optimistic that things will be more normal in the fall and it won’t cost the district so much money. But, she says, they have to plan otherwise.

“It is stressful and if I had a crystal ball I wish I could be able to tell,” Holmgrain said. “But at this point I think we have to plan for something similar that we have now in hopes that we can make that work. And if things are more liberal by the fall then they are.”

The school district needs to have a budget submitted to the state by June.