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New Schedules For High School, SGS, Up For Vote By Board Of Education

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Interim Franklin High School principal Orvyl Wilson describes the proposed changes to next year’s schedule to the Board of Education.

Schedule changes that would result in more homework and added – albeit shorter – lunch periods for Franklin High School students and longer science and social studies classes for Sampson G. Smith 6th graders will be up for votes at the Board of Education’s June 26 meeting.

Details of the changes were discussed at the board’s June 19 meeting.

Board members seemed amenable to the proposed changes at SGS, but some were joined by audience members in questioning aspects of the proposed high school changes.

The more substantive changes are in the proposed high school schedule. Under a slightly modified version of the schedules discussed with school staff at a June 2 meeting, class periods would be reduced from the current 59 minutes to 45 minutes, and lunch periods would be increased from the current three, 30-minute periods to four, 25-minute periods.

Adding one more lunch period would mean each period would see about 500 students, rather than the current 700 students, interim high school principal Orvyl Wilson told the board.

There were two versions of the proposed schedule discussed at the high school faculty meeting, one which had it first lunch period starting at 10:46 a.m. and one which had its first lunch period beginning at 9:57 a.m. The administration decided to go with the early lunch, Wilson said.

Lunch periods became a point of contention with students and parents this year, many complaining that long lines in the cafeteria resulted in students sometimes not getting lunch before the period ended, and students having to eat lunch in the common area outside of the cafeteria for lack of space.

Responding to a concern raised by board member Delvin Burton about the early lunch period, Wilson said that many student wake up at 5 a.m. to get ready for school.

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The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on this proposed schedule change for the high school at its June 26 meeting.

“From the time they get up and have breakfast, it seemed reasonable that they would be hungry at that time,” he said.

Wilson said he did meet with “smaller groups of students” when creating the proposed schedule, but “time constraints” prevented him from talking to much of the student body.

As for the time period being shortened to 25 minutes, interim schools Superintendent Lee Seitz said that eating lunch in that time frame, “with the proper food service, can be accommodated nicely.”

“I don’t think we should make this bigger than it is,” Seitz said.

Wilson said one of the students’ biggest concerns is that they be able to take eight courses during the day. He said this proposed schedule accomplishes that, although some Advanced Placement students would probably have to take an online class.

The overall advantage to the proposed schedule, Wilson said, is that teachers would see students every school day and that the schedule would provide more than two hours additional instruction time per class, per year.

He said that some teachers may have to teach an extra class, but added that was provided for in the teachers’ contracts.

Answering a question posed by board member Nancy LaCorte, Wilson said that students “probably” would have more homework with the new schedule.

“There are potentially more assignments in a given evening,” Seitz said. “But in the long run, it will be balanced out.”

Board member Ed Potosnak, a former chemistry teacher, expressed doubt that 45 minutes is long enough for a substantive science lab period.

Science teachers “felt they could work their labs in” with the exception of Advanced Placement, Wilson said.

Given that most students and parents were not consulted about the changes, LaCorte asked that the vote on the new schedule be postponed until the board’s July meeting.

Seitz said that would not be possible.

“Waiting until the end of July just won’t work,” he said. “We are under a bit of a time constraint on this.”

“It takes time to build the master schedule,” Seitz said.

Seitz was backed up by board members Richard Arline and Keisha Smith-Carrington, who said the vote needs to be taken at the board’s next meeting.

Several residents told the board they didn’t like the proposed changes.

Speaking of the tight time frame in which these changes were proposed and must be voted on, Franklin Park resident Denise Davis said it “seems the community doesn’t have much of a voice in major decisions.”

The schedule, she said, “is not a simple thing.These are major changes in our children’s lives and in our lives.”

Seitz allowed that there was “very little community input in the proposed schedule,” repeating that the district is “under the gun.”

“We felt that it would be better to make the recommendations now, rather than waiting a year,” he said.

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Sampson G. Smith School principal Eileen Brett talks about the proposed schedule changes.

Sampson G. Smith School principal Eileen Brett had an easier time describing the proposed changes in next year’s schedule.

Currently, 6th Grade science and social studies classes are taught in 40-minute blocks, while the remainder of the classes are taught in 80-minute blocks, she said. The proposal is to offer 80-minute blocks for those two courses as well.

“Forty minutes is a short block of time” to be able to comprehensively teach those courses, she told the board.

She said the change would affect six science and six social studies teachers.

“It’s a minor adjustment,” Seitz said.

 

 

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