Gasconade County R-2 buildings will retain later opening times in 2021-22

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 7/14/21

The Gasconade County R-2 School District will continue to open buildings for students later in the 2021-22 school year — at 7:45 a.m. rather than 7:30 a.m., for the second year in a row— by …

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Gasconade County R-2 buildings will retain later opening times in 2021-22

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The Gasconade County R-2 School District will continue to open buildings for students later in the 2021-22 school year — at 7:45 a.m. rather than 7:30 a.m., for the second year in a row— by request of building administrators.
While reviewing Student Handbook changes on June 28, building principals asked the Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education to consider keeping morning drop-off no earlier than 7:45 a.m. — a change that was implemented during the 2020-21 school year because of COVID-19.
Director Debbie Landolt asked the initial question.
“Students in the building used to be 7:30 a.m. and now we are pushing it to 7:45 a.m.?” Landolt asked.
“That is what we did this past year,” said Teresa Schulte, Owensville Middle School principal.
Director Jean Baker said she is concerned about breakfast and if kids have enough time to eat. Schulte said they make sure the students have time to eat if they want.
Director Molly Steinbeck asked how well implementing the 7:45 a.m. time frame worked last year.
“At OES, a parent couldn’t just drop-off and leave, but at OMS, I would drive by in the mornings and there are just kids everywhere and their parents just leave,” Steinbeck said. “Was that ever addressed?”
Schulte said parents are warned that there is no supervision that early in the morning, but there are some parents who drop off their students at 6:55 a.m., and no one is there.
“We would send reminders out to parents that no one is there at that time,” Schulte said. “I don’t know what we can do about that. But (parents) have to get to work and either their kid doesn’t want to ride the bus or it’s right there and they think their kids are old enough to handle it. Sometimes there would be a few minor behavior things that we have to call a parent about, but I don’t know how else we could address that.”
She added some parents will wait until the teachers open the door.
“We try to open the doors as soon as we can at 7:45 a.m. and get them where they need to go,” Schulte said. “That was because of COVID mostly because we couldn’t have kids congregating together.”
Owensville High School Principal Kris Altemeyer said they would let the students attending Rolla Technical Institute in a little earlier so they would have time to eat breakfast because their bus would leave around 7:45 or 7:50 a.m. each day.
Landolt asked, if things were going back to normal, why they weren’t going back to 7:30 a.m. drop-offs? Schulte said they could and the students could go to the library or the commons area.
“We can,” Schulte said. “We can always change it back.”
Gerald Elementary School (GES) Principal Jared Tharp, who served his first year in the district during the 2020-21 school year, interjected that they should wait.
“I would say before we make a knee-jerk decision on that right away — we are in a great position now to look at last year and what worked to our benefit — what we did because we had to and now that we don’t have to, what can we still do because it was more effective,” Tharp began. “From my standpoint with staffing and keeping it at 7:45 a.m., I can be a little more flexible so I don’t have to have someone there so early and then release that person so early. If I can get away with 7:45 a.m. it means I can keep someone there longer and be more flexible throughout the day.”
Tharp added that he is not on the main campus and doesn’t want to make a decision for the other three schools.
“I am very hesitant just to go back to something because we did it before and now we can go back,” Tharp said. “For me, it was a better mousetrap than what it was prior to — so for me, if I can make that decision on my own, 7:45 a.m. sounds pretty good.”
Schulte said some staff members have to be at OES to drop off their kids, and she tries to be flexible about teachers getting their kids where they need to be.
Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner, who’s last day was July 1, said there are positive and negative positions to both times and suggested talking to Transportation Director Gary Pohlmann.
“I know we are talking 15 minutes, but for Gary and some of his first bus routes, the pickup point is getting closer than they like for some of those clock times,” Garner said. “First pickup is 6:30 a.m. and those are the yin and yang to earlier or later.”
Director Russ Farrell asked Garner why they would want the students there earlier. Garner answered that it is convenient for some parents.
“We are not a babysitter,” Farrell said amidst some laughter.
“Good questions and good discussion,” Garner said who was overseeing his final meeting as the district’s superintendent. “I am sure you can discuss it again in July.”
The board approved the renewal of several services before circling back to make a motion to approve the principals’ changes to the elementary, middle, and high school handbooks for the 2021-22 school year, including keeping 7:45 a.m. start time. Director Joyce Lowes made the motion and Baker seconded, the motion was approved with a 7-0 vote.

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