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Students protest extended school days with vandalism, walkouts

Some Farmington students are not as excited as school district

officials would like about adding 10 extra minutes to the school day.

In the past couple of weeks, students have pulled a couple of stunts

that clearly show they are not in support of the daily time extension.

Recently, some students vandalized the home of Farmington High School

principal Monica Kittock-Sargent, leaving behind a message referring

specifically to what can be done with 10 minutes. On Monday, FHS

students and staff arrived to find the message, "What we can do with

10 minutes," written backward on the upper lunchroom windows, so the

words could be read clearly from the inside. The message was

accompanied by a blow-up doll, hanging from the outside of the

building.

Meanwhile, at Farmington Middle School West, a handful of eighth

grade students tried to stage a walkout in protest last week. The

protest failed for lack of support by most students.

The efforts of a few are not likely to change the position of school

officials. Superintendent Brad Meeks stands behind the recent

decision to extend the school day because, in his opinion, it is the

best way to make up time lost to last month's unexpected time off for

a snow day.

He said there a general lack of direction from the state of Minnesota

on how snow days should be handled. The state requires that students

receive a certain amount of instructional time in order to graduate

or advance to the next grade level. Like all other districts, School

District 192 plans its school year so it meets the state's

requirements.

Given that Farmington has not had a snow day in several years, a

couple of flex days had been planned into the schedule. However,

because this year's snow day was so late in the year, the only option

left was to schedule a full day of school on June 2. That would mean

adding an additional day to the calendar, though, as June 1 is

currently the last day of school.

That option would not work well, Meeks said, because it would

interfere with graduation practice. He also felt adding an additional

day would less popular than simply adding 10 minutes to the remaining

school days.

"We felt adding time to the school day would be less complicated," he

said, "and all the students would benefit from it. Otherwise, there

would be a higher than usual absence rate."

Based on reactions, though, Meeks said he would entertain the idea of

adding another day if the same situation happened in the future.

"We're still at the mercy of when the snow storms hit, but we still

have to use some judgment on how to make up that time. In the future,

my anticipation is to stick to the additional day and that will be

it. Whoever shows up, shows up."

Meeks has received letters from elementary school students who have

voiced their thoughts on the school calendar, in general.

The letters, he said, were part of a writing assignment, but the

point in the letters was still taken. Those points, coming in that

form, are what school officials would like to see when it comes to

students voicing their opinions. Acts of vandalism, Meeks said, are

far less effective.

Vandalizing school property comes with repercussions. If the student

or students who are responsible for the vandalism this week are

identified, each individual could be suspended.

School liaison officer Ted Dau said the student or students could

also be brought up on charges of disorderly conduct and/or

trespassing.

There is a good chance, too, that Dau and other school officials will

be able to identify who did the damage to the high school. The school

has security cameras outside that record the school building. It will

take some time to run through the surveillance tapes, he said, but it

is possible the persons responsible will be identified.

Meeks hopes there will be no more negative activity through the end

of the school year, not just because of any potential damage to

school property, but for student safety. He said whomever wrote the

words on the upper windows would have had to be up on a ladder at

night, and that is a concern.

"To put yourself at risk, climbing up on a building at night is not a

wise move," Meeks said. "Ten minutes is not a huge social injustice

that's worth the destructive behavior we're seeing.

"There's a public forum at the school board meetings. The public

officials and administrators are very accessible. But resorting to

breaking the law to make your point is not the way to do it. It's not

about the instructional component anymore, it's about the damage

you're doing to a public building and the risk to yourself."

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