Schedule changes coming in 2016-17

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April 15, 2015 - 12:00 AM

It’s all about time.
USD 257 school board members continued their discussion on how much time students spend in a class at their board meeting Tuesday night. The board approved changing block scheduling — where students learn a specific subject every other day — to where they study subjects every day for the 2016-2017 school year. The motion passed 6-1 with board member Darrel Catron against.
Superintendent of Schools Jack Koehn listed what he viewed as the pros and cons of block scheduling before members voted. If the school members were to shorten the school calendar they would run into issues with the current block schedule, including longer school days.
Koehn said moving from the current 90-minute classes to 55-minute periods every day increases time spent on a subject.
“There are some good things about block scheduling but I’m concerned if we are getting as much class material as other schools,” Koehn said.
Advantages of block scheduling include students don’t have to prepare for a subject every day, there’s more planning time for classes and a larger menu of electives can be offered .
Koehn said studies show students who are taught material in two shorter learning periods retain more information than teaching the same material in a longer period.
Block scheduling, Koehn believes, is affecting students’ ACT scores and having a 7-period or 8-period day would allow for more review time on the ACT.
In 2010, 55 Iola students were tested. In 2014, 41 students from Iola were tested.
Iola students rank below the state level in ACT subjects. They test at 34 percent in algebra to the state’s 50 percent; 32 percent in science to the state’s 44 percent, 49 percent in social studies to the state’s 51 percent and 23 percent in all subjects to the state’s 31 percent.
“I’m concerned we should be doing better,” Koehn said.
Senior Clara Wicoff addressed the board on her concerns of changing block scheduling.
“On the ACT math scores there are 35 math questions,” Wicoff said. “Fourteen are pre-algebra. Those pre-algebra questions you haven’t had since 7th or 8th grade, 10 are elementary questions, nine are geometry, and only four questions are trig. Trig is what you take as a junior. You’re going to need time to review.”
Before the Kansas Legislature is a measure proposed by Sen. Steve Abrams that would include a school’s test scores and the success of its students after graduation to how much funding it receives.
High School Principal Stacey Fager said the high school staff was apprised about switching course scheduling. He said most of the teachers are comfortable with block scheduling and so are students.
Fager said he has taught in both formats — block and traditional schedules — and “I personally like teaching in the block scheduling, but that doesn’t make it the best scheduling for Iola High School,” Fager said. “If we’re really looking at minutes and all the transitions to the Bowlus, we’re looking at cutting into instruction time,” if the school changes back to teaching the same subjects every day.
Fager said students would need time to travel back and forth from the main campus to the fine arts center.
“I don’t think Iola is tied to block scheduling just because of the fine arts building,” he said.
Iola and Independence High School are the two schools in Southeast Kansas that use block scheduling. Iola is the only school in the Pioneer League that uses block scheduling.
Waiting until 2016-2017 allows for board members and administration time to discuss a new schedule with teachers. This will also give time to make the transition easier on students.

THE DISTRICT has three-and-a-half unused snow days. The board approved letting school out early on May 15. It will be a full day of school. To be compliant with the state, students attending Crossroads will have to continue until May 21.
Koehn originally proposed combining the middle school and high school bookkeeping positions for next year to save money. The current middle school bookkeeper is retiring after this school year and the board wouldn’t have replaced her. However, now that the school will have more students, because of attendance centers, Koehn recommended the board keep the middle school position.
The board is still looking at cutting about $518,000 in the next one to three years.
An attendance center transition plan has been created. Each building has a team of teachers and administrator planning the moves.

SCOTT Stanley, director of maintenance and operations, gave the board a look at what needs to be done in the summer. 
When engineers looked at the high school building last year they noticed a problem with the floors on each level. The floors are starting to slop where the renovation from 1989 meets the older building. This would cost $25,000 just to find out where the problem is. The renovation is blocked by sheet rock, and fire blocking.
Stanely said McKInley also needs new carpet, the district will re-key the exterior doors on every building and Stanley listed multiple ADA projects.

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