High school students’ schedules are due for a shake-up.
Teton County School District No. 1 is starting a public process to review the current master schedules for Jackson Hole High School and Summit High School. Since the 2010-2011 school year the high schools have been structured under a modified block schedule with seven periods.
“As educators, we seek every opportunity to model lifelong learning and improvement by continually examining our practices and processes,” Jackson Hole High School Principal Scott Crisp said. “We feel it is important to take a look at how we have been operating and ask ourselves, ‘Is this structure meeting the needs of current and future students?’”
Summit High School Principal Beth Auge agreed and said it was worth the time and effort.
“Yes, this is a lot of work that may present some questions, challenges and concerns,” Auge said. “But we owe it to our students to do this important review.”
While a schedule might sound just like a schedule, it has serious implications for what kids are offered and how.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals said “the master schedule reveals the true beliefs, attitudes, values and priorities of the school district. The school’s master schedule is like looking at an MRI of the inner workings of a school … the master schedule reveals what is important to the school, how a student’s day looks, how professionals interact and how key decisions are made.”
The review process is multifaceted. Considerations include building reteaching, intervention or tutorial time into the day, the number of courses to focus on each day and semester, the number of student and teacher transitions each day, the number of students a teacher sees each day, and allowing for increased blended learning opportunities.
Crisp said one of the primary reasons to review the schedule is to find time for something that isn’t offered now — reteaching important concepts to students who may be struggling.
“We have to find a time during the day to have tutorial and intervention for the kids,” Crisp said during a committee meeting Oct. 20.
The district now has an “extended-day” option from 4 to 5 p.m. that provides students with a quiet space to complete homework and get help from certified teachers.
To increase college and career readiness, the district wants to maintain important programming in test prep, career exploration and the college application process, as well as maintaining and increasing AP class participation. The district also wants to keep time for teacher collaboration consistent.
Principals acknowledged other factors might drive schedule changes — like budget cuts.
The school district took a $391,075 cut from state sources hit hard by declining coal revenue for fiscal year 2017. State funding supplies money for salaries, supplies and utility costs.
“We are hoping that instruction drives this decision,” Crisp said. “But there are other constraints that are a reality.”
Jackson Hole Middle School Principal Debbie Pfortmiller agreed. Changes made at the high school level will affect the middle school, due to shared staff.
“We have to make tough choices,” she said. “If they need intervention then maybe they have to drop an elective. It’s not just Jackson, it’s nationwide.”
Trade-offs seem inevitable.
“If we are going to be purposeful about implementing these times for interventions, something does have to give during the day,” Crisp said. “And those might be those fun, elective, engaging pieces. It will come down to a belief conversation. Does art help kids excel in math?”
An information night for parents will be offered at 6 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Jackson Hole High School library. The district encourages parents of high school and eighth-grade students to attend so they can share their thoughts or concerns and ask questions.
The district hopes to present more concrete master schedule plans and recommendations to the board in December or January.