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'Zero hour' classes to be offered at three high schools

As part of the new six-period day at Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools next year, additional "zero-hour" 45-minute classes will be offered before school.

The District 833 School Board seemed receptive to the proposal presented by high school principals Efe Agbamu of Park, Linda Plante of Woodbury and Aaron Harper of East Ridge, to additional classes.

Plante plans to offer chemistry, U.S. history, physical education and geometry next year.

Harper and Agbamu said they want to discuss the issue more with staff and students before setting their slates of classes.

Agbamu is considering classes for students who need additional help. After-school classes have had poor attendance, she said, because students need to take the bus or go to jobs.

Plante said the plan is to offer classes at no further cost to the district by adjusting teachers' class day schedules. No additional busing would be offered.

Board Member Jim Gelbmann, who opposed dropping the current four-period day, said he fears high-achieving students will be short-changed by the new schedule.

By not offering busing, some students would not have access to additional classes, Gelbmann said.

Superintendent Mark Porter said there might be issues with zero-hour classes that need additional funding. That will be part of upcoming 2010-2011 budget discussions, he said.

Zero-hour teachers will teach class four days a week. On Fridays, students will be offered computer lessons or online class work, Plante said.

The same classes will also be offered within the regular class day for students who don't opt to take zero-hour classes.

Plante said "August Academy" will be offered to students with for-credit classes in Air Force Junior ROTC, ninth-grade preparation for high school, robotics, marching band and ceramics.

Board Chair Leslee Boyd suggested that some classes be offered that would not require students to attend zero-hour for the entire year.

"This is gratifying to me," said Board Member Laurie Johnson, because students interested in music or band have to commit 25 percent of their education under the four-period day model.

Participation in choir and band will benefit from the six-period day, Porter said, because current participation has lessened.

Harper said zero-hour would allow kids to take more math classes during the regular class day because they can take required or elective classes before school starts.

Gelbmann asked if students would have access to help after school if zero-hour teachers have left for the day.

Plante said other department teachers will be available.

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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