GCHS looks at the possibility of going to seven-period school days

6/18/2014

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Administration and staff at Garden City High School are looking at the possibility of going to a seven-period school day. The change must first be approved by the USD 457 Board of Education and go through the teacher negotiation process and couldn't take effect until the 2015-16 school year or later, but the possibility has raised concerns for at least one parent.

In an email to The Telegram, Naomi Shipley expressed concerns about the idea.

"What this means is that students will have four less full credits that they can earn in high school, which means eight less electives the student can take over a four-year high school career. As a parent, I am very upset that my children will receive fewer opportunities to explore possible career/college pursuits while in high school, limiting their education," Shipley said. "I think this is particularly egregious in light of the fact that we just built a $90-plus million dollar-facility and over $2 million in iPad initiatives to give our children the best possible education. Now, we the citizens are being rewarded for our support with fewer opportunities for our children in this school."

James Mireles, principal of GCHS, confirmed he and high school teachers have been looking into a number of alternative scheduling possibilities, including a seven-period day.

According to Mireles, 73 percent of teachers voted in favor of the seven-period day schedule in a recent survey. The high school's current schedule is called a block schedule and amounts to eight-period days.

In a separate interview, Mireles said the change to a seven-period day is just in the discussion phase.

"It's something we discussed all this last year with our teachers, researched and everything else, and we are still in the discussion mode," Mireles said, adding that because it would first have to be approved by the board and then be included in teacher negotiations that it may or may not come to fruition. "There are still a lot of things that would have to happen before it would become a reality."

Mireles said it would also have to be presented to the district's curriculum council and the earliest it could be rolled out is in the 2015-16 school year.

Dr. Rick Atha, USD 457 superintendent, is neither for or against such a change and said the study being conducted may not even reach the board.

"I don't have much comment to make on it, other than as per the five-year strategic plan, we're charged to investigate or look into that, so the high school is," Atha said. "They haven't turned in a recommendation yet, but they are looking into it. There are pros and cons to a seven-period day, there are pros and cons to a block schedule. I, personally, don't have a preference of one or the other."

The aspect of the district's five-year strategic plan that Atha was referring to is an initiative that deals with efficiency, safety and infrastructure. Within that initiative is a sub goal that reads as follows: "Investigate scheduling models (e.g. block schedule vs. seven-period day) for grades 9-12 to determine the best model for delivering instruction as well as the most efficient means for staffing."

Atha said one advantage of offering a seven-period day is that students would actually spend more time in each individual classroom. Under the current block schedule, which are eight-period days, students are in class for 90 minutes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week and then the next week, they are in that same class for 90 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday.

In contrast, under the seven-period day, students would spend from 50 to 55 minutes in the classroom every day of each week.

In terms of graduation requirements under the current block schedule, Atha said students must first complete 26.5 total credits and pass the required courses such as English, math, science and social studies.

"Right now, a kid could earn eight credits a year, so they have the opportunity to earn 32 credits overall," Atha said.

He said that with a seven-period day, students would be able to earn 28 credits in four years.

"There are pros and cons to both and that's what the high school is studying now," Atha said.

The study is expected to be shared with the board in the near future.

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