Budget threatens block scheduling
Superintendent Norm Fjelstad says the high school has to cut $50,000 in staff in 2008-09 and cut $200,000 in staff in 2009-10. Other schools in the district will make staff cuts in 2009-10 as well.
The high school already has decided it won’t replace two retiring part-time teachers to make the cuts next year. It probably will cut two teachers and two support staff in the following year, Principal Jim Halberg said in a memo to the school board.
Block scheduling can be more expensive than traditional scheduling because it’s harder to arrange, Halberg said. Some classes end up with more than 30 students, while others have fewer than 16.
The block schedule also offers more classes, and thus more teachers, than a traditional schedule because it doesn’t offer study halls. The school requires 28 credits for graduation, instead of as few as 21.5 required in some districts.
Teachers receive 88-minute prep periods instead of the shorter periods offered at schools with traditional schedules.
All that adds up to more teachers and support staff, Halberg said. When the district implemented block scheduling in 1996, it hired five additional staff members.
But since Halberg arrived in 1999, the school has cut 10.5 positions.
“It’s not like the cuts are new to us,” he said.
The school hopes to keep the block system but probably will modify it, Halberg said. He already has formed a “schedule improvement committee” to examine how the school can make block scheduling more efficient.
One idea is to offer some 44-minute classes called “skinnys.” These classes would be especially useful for classes such as music that meet throughout the year, Halberg said.
Skinnys would allow the school to offer more classes, add study halls and balance class sizes, Halberg said. They also would allow the school to shorten teacher-prep periods.
The school also might change its policies for creating student schedules. Currently, students almost always get every class they sign up for.
But the school might not be able to offer that much choice with fewer teachers, Halberg said. The school could go to an “arena” type scheduling system where students choose classes based on grade and have to settle for what’s available.
The school probably won’t make major changes in next year’s schedule, Halberg said. The committee will examine scheduling policies after next year’s schedule is set to determine what the school could have done differently.
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