Teachers giving input on scheduling changes

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 27, 2003

The school district will know whether most Austin High School teachers want a four-period day when they vote on the proposed scheduling change Tuesday.

AHS Principal Joe Brown has proposed switching from a seven period day to a four period day by next school year. If the teachers vote yes, they will also be able to choose if they want the change to start in the 2003-04 school year or for it to wait until 2004-05.

The vote is the first step in a process that will include information sessions with parents and students before the school board decides whether to implement a four-period day.

Email newsletter signup

Brown said there are many benefits to switching to a four-period day.

Bob Riege, president of the Austin Education Association, the union that represents district teachers, said some teachers are for it and other do not want the schedule to change.

The four-period day would consist of four class periods, 90 minutes each. Classes that are normally a year long, would instead last a semester.

The school's population is expected to increase next school year by 80 to 100 students, making class sizes larger, Brown said. Under the four-period day, class sizes would be at about 28 students, but anywhere from 34 to 38 with a seven-period day, he said.

Teachers currently teach five course a semester. With a seven-period day, teachers would be working with 170 to 190 students a day.

"That just seems like a lot," Brown said.

Under the four-period day, teachers would teach three classes a semester.

Brown also said that attendance goes up in schools that switch to four-period days and that teachers take less sick days.

Generally, most discipline problems happen in between classes, Brown said. Because there are fewer breaks between classes, students are less likely to get in fights or be harassed, Brown said.

"Discipline referrals go down," he said. "Schools are calmer places."

Students would be under less stress because they have fewer classes to worry about, Brown said.

"Research has shown that the four-block day doesn't hurt or help test scores, but it has a major impact on the number of students succeeding," Brown said.

Brown acknowledges that the teachers will have to change their teaching style to fit the longer periods and said some may be worried about that.

Riege said some teachers are concerned about the amount of time it will take to adjust to the four-period day. Other concerns have to do with how to teach certain types of classes.

Music classes, such as band, would be offered all year long in a time block called a "skinny." The class would be offered for half of the 90-minute block. In the other half, students could take another music class or a study hall.

Music teachers are concerned about the schedule change, Riege said. Foreign language teachers have also questioned the positives of the four-period day, he said.

Some music teachers visited Albert Lea High School, which has the four-period day, and Brown said they were "impressed" with how the schedule was set up.

Some teachers would like the longer class period Riege said. Vocational-type class such as machine shop, would have more time for projects, he said.

Others would like to have smaller class sizes, he said.

But some teachers who have taught in other school district with a four-period day said they did not like it and would not vote for it, he said.

"There's a segment of teachers that are opposed to it," he said.

But Riege said he will not know what the teachers think about the proposal until after the vote.

"I think it's too early to tell right now," he said.

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