Six-period day brings changes

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:58am

Shoreline School District middle schools will move from a seven-period to a six-period day next year. What that means for students — especially those in elective, remedial and honors courses — may be on the minds of middle school parents. Teachers may wonder if jobs will be lost.

While there will be changes, school staff say they are working to mitigate the impact of those changes.

This month, the Shoreline School Board accepted a recommendation to cut seventh period, at an estimated savings of about $560,000.

An advisory committee recommended that as part of a $2.4 million savings proposal aimed at balancing the district’s ailing budget.

“It’s a significant impact,” Bill Dunbar, principal of Einstein Middle School, said of the change.

For example, students are required to take four core classes, including honors classes. On top of that, 100 hours, or roughly two trimesters, of P.E. is a state requirement.

A six period day gives students one elective to choose from, unless they want to attend zero period, before school starts. The district may offer a zero period, but that’s not final, said Dunbar.

Pat Valle, co-president of the Shoreline Education Association, or SEA, has a daughter at Einstein Middle School.

“For example, my daughter takes band, that’s a full year elective, and if she chooses to take Spanish, there’s another full year elective, and then there’s the state requirement of P.E.,” she said.

Taking zero period might allow her daughter to fit those courses in, Valle said.

Fewer electives will be offered, not in type of elective, but in number.

As for honors classes, access to those shouldn’t be affected, said Linda Gohlke, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the district.

Students who choose electives and other classes that are offered less than five or six times a day will be most affected, Dunbar said.

“It makes it harder for them to get exactly what they request because you’ve reduced the amount of (classes) offered at a time that will fit in their schedule,” he said.

Those classes include some art, band and foreign language classes and a section of advanced math that’s at the 10th grade level, as well as other classes.

“Moving away from a seven period day is going to be a big shift for our community,” said Lori Longo, principal at Kellogg. “Students will have to be making thoughtful decisions about elective choices and those students choosing to take two electives will have to make the commitment to come to zero period.”

It hasn’t been decided how many students zero period could accommodate. Longo anticipates that 150 to 180 students could take zero period.

“Hopefully we will (be able) to support every student wanting that opportunity,” she said.

In addition to more electives, the seven period day lets the schools offer extra remedial courses in math and English. Students take those classes in addition to a core class in those subjects.

The seven-period day also offers double the teacher planning time of a six period day, allowing teachers to collaborate more to team teach students.

Einstein and Kellogg are looking at ways to soften impacts on those offerings.

Site councils at each school, made up of teachers, staff and parents, have been meeting Thursdays to discuss new offerings, though nothing is final yet.

At Kellogg, for example, a “team tutorial” is being discussed. If offered, students who need help in math and English would meet with a teacher in one of those areas for half an hour during a silent sustained reading period.

“That’s one way we’re trying to reduce the number of students who need to be in a support class during the day, which takes up an elective option, while still providing an intervention,” said Longo.

Kellogg’s site council also is considering a one-trimester course called “Kellogg Transition,” aimed at teaching seventh graders critical thinking, study and computer skills.

Seventh graders would take two trimesters of P.E., rather than three. Transitions would replace the third trimester of P.E.

“We’re looking at being proactive, instead of waiting until the kids are not meeting with success in middle school, and (then) providing intervention,” Longo said.

The process at Einstein has just started, Dunbar said, so there aren’t many specifics yet. The group is reexamining requirements related to the current schedule and looking at ways students can have the fairest access to a six period day, Dunbar said.

“There are many high performing schools in the state of Washington that operate on a six-period schedule,” Dunbar said. “Finding ways to solve these problems will take time, but I think the school and the community will be pleased with what we we’re able to offer.”

The seven period day is relatively new in the district. It started four years ago, under former superintendent James Welsh.

The savings in eliminating it will come from cutting 7.6 staff positions.

Teacher jobs might or might not be lost.

A Reduction in Force, or RIF, is the term used to describe teacher layoffs.

“(Teachers) will probably be moved around before they’re RIF’d,” said Valle. “Hopefully through attrition and people moving around they’ll be able to hang on to staff.”

People also could declare early on that they intend to retire, or extend a leave of absence, which would also save jobs.

The teachers who remain will have one less period — roughly 45 to 50 minutes — of planning time, though the details of how that will play out have yet to be seen, Valle said. Currently they have two planning periods, one of which is used for collaboration.

District officials plan to revisit the seven period day in the future.

“There’s no time line now, but I’m sure we’ll be keeping our eyes on that as we see the ending fund balance and discussing how we want to go back and revisit some of these things,” said Gohlke.

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