High school to move to 7 periods

Sean C. Morgan

Pending approval of a new calendar and reaching an agreement with bargaining units regarding details, Sweet Home High School will move to a seven-period day on a semester schedule beginning next school year.

The school has spent the last 24 months looking at all kinds of schedules to replace the current five-period trimester schedule, Principal Ralph Brown told the School Board during its regular meeting Monday evening. With it, the school will be able to reduce class sizes, offer more classes and reduce continuity issues where students take one class in the first trimester, skip it in the winter and take the second half in the spring.

Under the plan, periods are 53 minutes long, down from 72. Adjusting for early release days, Wednesday periods are set at 40 minutes.

Counselor Lisa Malabago said the current schedule results in breaks of up to 24 weeks between two sections of different subjects, including Spanish and calculus. For special education students, it can limit their options for electives.

She displayed one sample schedule involving a special education student. The student was in band, and a second class was taken up with the Learning Resource Center. The rest were core classes. Outside of band, that student had just one option during the year for another elective.

The “high fliers” also have fewer slots for electives, she said.

A semester system allows teachers and students to build and maintain yearlong relationships, said Assistant Principal Chris Hiaasen. With a limited number of sections available, the five-period day increases class sizes.

It also causes problems with attaining credits for students transferring in or out of the high school, Hiaasen said. Some 69 percent of schools in the state are on a semester schedule, while every other Linn County district is on a semester schedule.

A seven-period day changes the math on when students are counted absent for half a day, Hiaasen said. Under the current schedule, a student missing one class in the afternoon for a dental appointment is considered to have missed half a day. Under a seven-period schedule, they must miss two to be considered absent half the day.

About 64 percent of students are at school 90 percent of the time, Hiaasen said. A large number of them are trying to graduate early. That means they’re missing out on opportunities, like career and technical education; and district staff would like them to take advantage of the free public school education they have available to them, including college classes.

The new schedule will help with scheduling, Hiaasen said. Right now, 60 percent of student schedules must be manually developed. At the beginning of the year, the school had more than 400 schedule changes.

With more sections of classes available, she ran a simulation under a seven-period day, and 85 percent of the students had full schedules.

The seven-period schedule adds new classes in areas where students show interest, Malabago said, ranging from more college offerings, like chemistry and Writing 122 to high school level criminology, civics and anatomy and physiology, along with college and SAT preparation.

The schedule for the same special education student Malabago mentioned earlier opens up to three slots for electives.

It increases the contact time spent on half a credit from 4,164 minutes to 4,554 and creates continuity with two terms of classes, Hiaasen said, and in core classes the schedule provides two more teachers per period and 17 new sections in core classes.

Career and technical education has been a big deal for SHHS, Brown said. This will allow the school to expand its CTE programs.

In some cases, it may require some adjustments to allow longer labs and CTE projects.

Brown said the school must complete a memorandum of understanding with the Sweet Home Education Association, the union representing teachers. It will seek board approval of a new calendar at the June 10 board meeting. The school must plan professional development to help teachers adjust the pacing of their courses, and the school must ensure parents, staff and students are aware of the changes.

The main dates parents care about in the calendar, things like Christmas Break and Spring Break, will remain unchanged, said Supt. Tom Yahraes. It will primarily affect grading days.

The overall goal, Brown said, is to increase graduation rates and decrease the dropout rate.

During board discussion, Jim Gourley said that band has been popular, but for years, students couldn’t always follow through thanks to scheduling.

Brown said it would add flexibility for the students when they’re trying to schedule those kinds of classes.

“I like the seven period,” said Angela Clegg. “Most colleges are semesters. Also the kids want those extra-curriculars.”

That helps keep them in school, and those kinds of classes are part of the high school experience, she said.

“My personal opinion,” Yahraaes said. “I’m excited about a schedule (with more electives) that excites kids.”

He also said the new schedule helps reduce regression in subjects taken in the fall and spring.

Toni Petersen was concerned that with Learning Resource Center as a class would not have other classes to take with more periods, a problem with the schedule in the past.

Brown assured her that students would have options.

Present at the meeting were board members Petersen, Gourley, Chanz Chanz Keeney, Mike Reynolds, Chairman Jason Redick, Clegg, Debra Brown and Jenny Daniels.

In other business, the board:

– Accepted the resignation of Jay Marble, health teacher at SHHS.

– Approved the hiring of Billie Cannon, behavior program facilitator for the district; Patricia O’Day, district nurse; Lindsey Simons, counselor at Oak Heights; KimHunt, special education teacher at Foster; Matthew Montrose, biology and life science teacher at SHHS; Alison PeiferHay, music teacher, grades six through 12; Emily Marchbanks, advanced math teacher at SHHS; and Susan Johnson, special education at SHHS.

– Approved a post-retirement agreement with Joan Pappin as a .4 full-time equivalent district nurse for 2019-20.

– Approved multiple policy updates governing harassment, bullying, staff-student-parent relations, graduation requirements and admission of nonresident students. Yahraes said the changes reflect updates in Oregon law.