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Parents, students protest six-period day proposal

Parents and students filled the District 833 boardroom Sept. 18, all opposing a proposal to go to six-period days over trimesters instead of four-period days over two semesters at Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools next year.

The majority of objections came from high-achieving students in their junior year, and parents, who are concerned students will not get in the classes they planned to take by the time they graduate.

They are concerned students will no longer have meaningful relationships with teachers if class periods go from 83 minutes to 55 minutes.

Parents were adamant that the board reject the proposal or at least delay implementing it until the 2010-2011 school year.

The board is on track to make a decision at the Sept. 25 meeting.

The proposal is part of the High School Re-Design Task Force recommendations that are linked to plans to change to middle schools that would function on eight-period days.

Ninth-graders will move to high schools in fall of 2009 when the new school opens. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders will go to middle school.

New attendance boundaries will also go into effect.

The task force's primary goal was to determine the best way to deliver "optimal student learning," said Randy Zipf, district assistant superintendent for secondary instruction.

"The task force did not have a pre-determined outcome," he said.

How classes would be scheduled would be determined only after school board approval, Zipf said, adding students would be able to complete advanced placement math, science and language classes they are now planning to take.

A six-period day means high school teachers would be in classrooms for 83 percent of the day as opposed to 75 percent now, with one of four class hours as class preparation time.

"Change is not always comfortable," Zipf said.

The savings would pay for the middle school plan that calls for teachers to have time to meet with other teachers to discuss student progress and separate time to prepare class lessons.

The middle school plan calls for students, in groups of approximately 125 students, to have the same core teachers over a year, allowing them more time to develop student relationships so all a child's teachers would know how a student is progressing.

"It's the most significant years they undergo as people," said Dave Bernhardson, high school and middle school task force facilitator.

The existing junior high model is that of a mini-high school where students change classrooms every hour without teachers knowing how students are doing in other classes.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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