Committee will look into school schedules

By Nancy Gutierrez

As the Exeter Union High School Board looks once again to investigate alternative schedules for regular school days, high school teachers prepare for a possible change and expressed their satisfaction toward the current four-by-four block schedule.

"The first year this came up it was because of budget cuts, the second year it was 'cause of test results, this year it's class size," Kathleen Lagruda said. "We always look at block schedule."

Lagruda is referring to the different reasons for changing the block scheduling which have been brought up in previous years.

Superintendent Renee Whitson said the high school needs to look for more opportunities for learning. Whitson suggested creating a committee that would look at all elements that are positive about block scheduling as well as look at a schedule that would be more cost effective.

"If we need to change we will look at how to be cognitive of the work of teachers. If we change to a six period day the teachers will need to restructure," She said.

Whitson said there are 15 different schedules that could be looked at and not just the six period day. The committee will look for a schedule that has the best parts of the block schedule as well as other benefits like being more financially feasible. The four-by-four schedule is the most expensive because it requires more teachers.

At one point teachers agreed to take on bigger class loads to keep the cost down if the district would maintain the four-by-four schedule, which many teachers felt worked efficiently. Now, after positions from retired teachers have gone unfilled many classes have more than 35 students in them, some have 40.

"We're not saying it is going to change," boardmember Bob Todd said. "What's wrong with the board trying to find out if there is something better?"

"I've got goals set," Lagruda said. "The pacing guides work, the API scores are up. They work. I'm getting tired of having to defend what we are doing well."

Teacher Kathy Hansen said polishing the lesson plans she has made is hard when a schedule change looms overhead.

Mary Cairns, an economics teacher, said she was not happy with the block schedule and that it has been difficult to do a good job with the long classes.

"Given the long class time I can't keep the level of learning up," Cairns said. "I give candy, dance and other things to hold their attention."

Cairns said that some classes benefit from the longer class time but other subjects would do better with a shorter class time.

Shanda Stacey a sophomore at EUHS also addressed the board with concerns of losing classes that she has already planned to take with the help of the four-by-four schedule. She told the board that it isn't class size or schedule that makes kids learn it is their attitude. She said the four-by-four schedule is harder but students get more time to ask questions and teachers have time to elaborate on those questions.

"I hope you consider this from a teacher and students perspective, not just for financial reasons," Stacey said.

The board decided to establish an advisory committee that would review schedule options focusing on increased academic rigor, more opportunities for learning, increase or maintain student/teacher contact, decrease disciplinary issues, cost effectiveness, class size, impact on the "work" of the district, including pacing guides, curriculum maps, pacing guides and other work.

The committee will present initial findings to the board at a special board meeting. EUHS Principal Don Brinkman, Teacher Representative Dan Crookam, Parent representative Mark Pascoe and an ASB representative will select the committee which is to be made up of parents, students and community members.

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