Central Valley School District is studying a change to 80-minute classes at its two high schools.
The proposal would mean scrapping a six-period daily schedule for a four-period day. Longer classes would give teachers and students time for active learning activities, things like science labs, computer and other high-tech work, group projects and team teaching, according to members of a committee that has studied the idea.
District officials have set several community meetings to get public comment on the plan. The school board heard a report this week and is expected to vote on the plan in June.
Central Valley isn’t the only district interested in longer class periods. Freeman High School just finished a two-week trial of a four-period day, with good results. West Valley is refining a schedule that combines traditional 50-minute classes and some two-hour classes. East Valley is taking a long, hard look at what it teaches and how it teaches before making any scheduling changes.
Teachers and officials agreed on one thing at Monday’s CV board meeting:
Teaching styles would have to change. Students won’t sit still for 80 straight minutes of lecture.
“We could maximize the variety of teaching techniques. We’ve had a lot of training; we’d like to be able to utilize it,” said Jon Allen, a chemistry teacher at U-Hi and one of the co-chairs of the planning committee.
The change would mean a trimester system for Central Valley and University high schools, rather than the current two semester system. Students would take the same number of credits as they do now. Graduation requirements would not change.
Lunch periods would change.
The proposed schedule would allow an hour at midday, half for lunch and half for tutoring, making up tests, assemblies or other activities.
“That’s one of the things we really want to hear from parents on,” said Paul Danelo, CV math teacher and committee co-chair. “What would they like us to include?” Danelo said he hopes parents will bring their questions to the community meetings.
“If we can’t answer their questions, we’ll research them and bring the information to the next meetings,” he said.
Here are some questions asked by board members and the answers they received:
Would the hour lunch period involve an open campus?
“We’ve approached this as though it were a closed campus,” Allen said. Students would not be allowed to leave campus, but would be involved in some activity. “We would need a high degree of accountability,” he said.
Would teaching time increase or decrease?
“We would gain 160 minutes of instructional time during a semester’s worth of classes,” Danelo said. If each class involves about five minutes of start up time, going to longer, but fewer class sessions would mean less time devoted to that hubbub.
How committed are the high school teachers to changing their teaching methods?
“I think we’ve already started to deal with that,” said committee member Steve Bernard, who teaches world affairs at CV. He now works with students in two-hour blocks. “They may be involved in four or five activities in a block. You can hold them on an activity for about 20 minutes.”
Why is the committee proposing a three-year trial period?
That would give the district enough time to see how students and teachers alike settle into the schedule. Committee members are already gathering information about attitudes, absenteeism, drop out rates and grades, so they have some baseline information to compare against.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CARE TO COMMENT? If you want to comment on the idea of a four-period day at Central Valley high schools, plan to attend one of these meetings, all of which begin at 7 p.m.: March 20: Central Valley High School and University High School. March 21: U-Hi Band Boosters. April 10: Evergreen Junior High and Horizon Junior High. April 15: CV Band Boosters. May 8: Bowdish Junior High and Greenacres Junior High.