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Six-period proposal draws parental ire

Parents and students filled the District 833 boardroom Sept. 18, all opposing a proposal to go to six-period days and trimesters instead of four-period days and two semesters starting in fall of 2009 at Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools.

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 also said they were concerned students will no longer have meaningful relationships with teachers if class periods go from 83 minutes to 55 minutes.

Parents asked the board to reject the proposal or put it off until 2010-2011.

"There are many advantages to the 6 x 3 plan," said Ann Stewart, of Woodbury. She asked the board to delay implementing the plan because "current juniors don't have enough time."

Linda Daly, of Woodbury, also a district employee, said the long math period helped her daughter pass a math class the second time.

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

The proposal is part of 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 next year when the new school opens. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will go to middle schools.

New attendance boundaries will also go into effect.

Four periods "really works for my family," said Diana Braaten, who has two sons taking math at Woodbury High School. "In advanced math classes, there won't be enough time," she said.

With a four-period day, many students complete math by the end of 10th grade. The test, which includes Algebra II questions and is required next year to graduate, is given in the spring of 11th grade, up to a year after math classes are over.

Christa Lane-Larson, of Woodbury, said the public should know which teachers would be cut.

"Computer programmers can fix the problem with the schedule and math tests," she said.

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.

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, to have the same core teachers over a year, allowing them more time to develop relationships so all 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.

Karen McCarthy of Woodbury said the district should find a way to make the needed changes in middle school and keep the four-period day.

"I can't believe somebody's going to lose," she said. "My kids did great with the junior high setup."

"I'm alarmed you're going to vote on it in a week's time," said Janice Kobe, of Newport.

Several junior high school teachers supported the change to middle school including Gina Gramnis, of Oltman Junior High School, and Kymm Salwasser, of Cottage Grove Junior High School.

Students asked the board to keep the four-period day because changing would hurt students taking AP classes.

Ashley Morschen, of St. Paul Park, said she's spent much time building her schedule to take math. "I already have enough homework," she said.

"It's very bad for personal relations with teachers. I would hate to see that disappear," said Robert Hennen, of Woodbury High School. "You're under the assumption that No Child Left Behind will still be around after the election."

The task force that recommended the switch was charged with determining 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 the advanced placement math, science and language classes they are now planning to take.