Schedule Proposal has Some PotentialMonday, March 09, 2009 By Cailey M.C. Arensman
I have seen the future, and the future is pink. Confused? So was I when I first looked at the proposed schedule for next year that’s been making its way around the school. But though it may be too early to determine whether or not the schedule, generated by a group of teachers, is all good, it has several concepts that have great potential. "Schools are always looking at their second most valuable resource, which is time, because how you use time can greatly affect the quality of teaching and learning," principal Paul Freeman said. Time management was discussed in depth by the curriculum and scheduling committee, a group of teachers who worked together to generate the new schedule. The group generated several schedule ideas, but one in particular has been receiving large amounts of positive feedback from teachers, administrators, and parents. This schedule is not set in stone, as no final decisions on what Freeman calls "the shape of the day" need to be made until much later, but its popularity makes it worth discussing nonetheless. Mondays get a makeover under the proposed schedule. They retain their status as a REACH-free day, but with two key differences. School would start at 9:00 rather than the current 8:00, and students would get to experience all of their red and white day classes on one day: pink days. About having all classes on one day, Freeman said, “The principal reason is that teachers value seeing their students three times a week.” Freeman feels like some classes, like foreign language classes, are most effective when visited more frequently. “There are certain activities that lend themselves to shorter blocks of time and other activities which lend themselves to longer blocks of time,” English teacher and committee member Hope Waibel says that she could use the pink day class periods for things like vocabulary and tests. "Late start on Monday mornings is a district-wide policy, so we knew we had to do that," Waibel said. Time before 9:00 is reserved for the teacher meetings and training that normally occur on IDD days (those frequent Mondays where we have school but teachers don't). "You'd rather support one week of teaching with an hour and a half of IDD day time," Freeman said. "Spreading it around is intended to help learning." With such drastically different Mondays, most of the propositions made for the rest of the week aren't too drastic - 10 more minutes at the end of the day, five fewer minutes for lunch - except one notable exception. The good news? Friday REACH is back. "The judgement is that this year, REACH has been much better utilized by students," Freeman said. The wait-and-see, there could be some major pitfalls news? REACH will now be held in the afternoons, making school start at 8:00 every day. "The positive thing about afternoon REACH is that you can't go to someone's bedroom and drag them to REACH, but you can go to someone's last hour and make them stay," Waibel said. Both she and Freeman feel like afterschool REACH would increase in attendance and be better utilized by freshmen and sophomores reliant on schoolbuses (buses would leave at 3:30, not at 2:40 when classes ended). "It might help to get rid of the erroneous idea that school doesn't start until 8:40," Freeman said. He's probably right. But as someone who too-often finds herself subscribing to that erroneous idea and pulling into the parking lot at 8:35, I find myself questioning the move. Selfish concerns about my sleep patterns aside, I have to wonder about other ramifications of the shift. How will this affect morning sports practices? How will this affect the teachers who work part time? Math teacher Anne Swanson's classroom works only in the mornings, but her room is filled almost every morning during REACH. Freeman says that level of detail has yet to be discussed, so until I hear more specifics I feel that I must remain neutral on the REACH issue. But about the other parts of the schedule, I am much more enthusiastic. I think that spreading out IDD time will improve teaching quality and better utilize a resource that seems to have been poorly structured previously. And I feel like the pink days will be a great addition to the schedule, much better than this year's endless Monday and Friday periods. Students can talk with their teachers about their feelings about the schedule, or leave comments on this article. Freeman said, "We try to make decisions on the basis of collaborations." I can only hope that students' opinions will be considered when a final schedule is eventually decided on.