May 1, 2009
by Katri Backman-Koster
When the new schedule was first proposed, I trusted that the administration knew what they were doing and that it was going to be a change for the better.
My eleventh grader was vehemently opposed to changing a schedule that in his opinion worked well, had flexibility and had taught him to recite the alphabet in reverse! I assured him that although change is often hard, this must be for the better, because why on earth would anyone suggest changing the schedule otherwise.
As expected, my son has adjusted to the new schedule. He enjoys the fact that he does not have homework for each subject every night - he might even be getting more sleep than he used to, which is great – and he is enjoying all the free periods he has during many of his school days. Now I, on the other hand, have my doubts about the outcome.
It was during the recent budget discussions that I finally figured out what the new schedule is really like. And boy, do I feel like a dummy.
Where classes used to meet nearly every day in a 6 day rotation, they now meet on as few as 4 and never more than 6 days in an 8 day rotation. In the new schedule, the science and math classes meet on only 6 out of 8 days, resulting in less classroom time than before. It was when I found out that my son’s AP Chemistry class had not had time for any labs since the beginning of the school year that I began to question the whole new schedule.
During the budget discussions, we were told how the increase in foreign language instruction at the middle school from every other day to every day is such a great thing. And it is! Then why is it that foreign language classes at the high school meet on only 5 out of 8 days?
We are also increasing reading and writing instruction at the middle school, though whether because it is a good thing or because other programs are being cut is not clear to me. Yet, English classes at the high school meet on only 4 out of 8 days. That is down from 5 of every 6 days in the old schedule. How is that an improvement?
While the students, no doubt, embrace the school days during which they have several free periods, I have trouble calling a day that consists of only French, Orchestra and Physics a “school day.” That “school day,” by the way, comes around twice in the 8 day rotation!
The Board of Education agenda for Tuesday, May 5, has “High School Schedule Discussion” trailing third, behind “Public Hearing on Adopted Budget” and “Library Budget.” I believe the high school schedule is far more important than to be placed third on the agenda. The community should participate in the discussion and I urge the board to move discussion of the high school schedule to an earlier time in the evening.
For a full review of all the articles written and letters to the editor received by NewCastleNOW.org last year about the schedule change, click here.
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