AHS teachers turn back vote on class schedule changes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Austin High School teachers voted down a proposal Tuesday to implement a four-period day at AHS.

Of the 78 AHS teachers, 40 voted against it and 34 vote for it. One teacher abstained from voting. Three teachers that did not vote were not at school Tuesday.

Principal Joe Brown proposed the four-period day to the teachers in December. It was a scheduling option he had been thinking about for about six months. When he saw state budget projections and noticed the large class of ninth graders coming in next year, he thought the new schedule would benefit AHS.

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Brown said because of budget constraints, he will not be able to hire more than 78 teachers. With the seven-period day, Brown predicted class sizes could be as high as 38 students. Under the four-period day, classes would stay at the current average of 28, he said.

But Austin Education Association President Bob Riege said there is no guarantee the class sizes would stay at 28 with the four-period day. Riege, an AHS social studies teacher, said he was against the change.

"I don't think we're really prepared to go into it," he said. He said teachers were concerned with start-up costs and the time that would be spent to adjust to a four-period day.

Under a four-period day, classes would last 90 minutes apiece. A year-long class would be condensed into a semester.

Riege said even though the time in class is the same, it would not be possible to cover the same amount of material in that time. Foreign language teachers were concerned students would not have enough time to process a new language.

It also may have affected they way students perform on Advanced Placement tests at the end of the year, said Riege, who teaches AP American History. Students taking the AP class the first semester, would have to wait another semester before taking the test based on the information in that class, he said.

But some teachers would have liked to have the extra time in class, Riege said. Those teaching vocational or art classes would have more time for projects.

To resolve this, Brown and Riege discussed allowing a class to go over two periods in the seven-period day, which would not violate the teacher contract. No formal proposals have been made, however.

Another factor in increased class size is that fewer students are dropping out or moving from town. At the end of the semester, AHS was down 17 students when normally that number is at 65, Brown said. Since students now have to be 18 before quitting school, AHS's dropout rate has decreased.

Besides class size, Brown said other benefits of the four-period day included less stress on students and teachers and fewer discipline problems because they are fewer breaks between classes.

Of the 34 teachers that voted yes, 22 said they would like it to begin in the 2003-04 school year, while 12 wanted it to wait until 2004-05.

Brown said he is disappointed, but has not ruled out the block schedule for future years.

"I obviously wished it would have passed," Brown said. "I thought this would be a way to alleviate problems."

Riege said although class sizes may be large next year, AHS teachers will still offer quality education.

He is still open to looking into more options to increase opportunities for students.

"We'll revisit it someday down the road," Riege said.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at cari.quam@austindailyherald.com