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Board to weigh 3 schedule options

By Bryan Richardson

Three options for the Manhattan High School schedule will be discussed by the USD 383 school board at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Robinson Education Center.

The options are maintaining the current seven-hour schedule, going to a six plus zero hour with late start schedule, or using a seven-hour modified block schedule with a late start. A committee has been meeting on the options since July.

MHS had a six plus zero hour schedule from 1997 to 1999 when the graduation requirement was 21 credits. The current seven-hour schedule began in 1999 with 24 credits required for graduation.

In material prepared for the board’s consideration, one advantage of the six-hour schedule is periods that are six minutes longer, allowing the restoration of some dropped content.

The committee calculates that a six-hour schedule plus a zero hour with a late start could involve a 10 to 16 percent staff reduction (11-18 teachers) and a reduction of $506,000 to $828,000 in cost. That calculation is based on a $46,000 estimate of a beginning teacher’s salary with benefits.

Zero hour classes wouldn’t, however, receive base aid per pupil because not all students are required to attend.

Advantages of the seven-hour modified block are 90-minute class periods on the two block days, and a late start day that allows professional learning time for teachers and student activity meeting to occur with fewer interruptions. Disadvantages include adaptation to different schedules and students who struggle without daily contact.

In surveys of 88 teachers and 45 students, both groups favored maintaining the current schedule with 63.6 percent and 52.3 percent of the votes, respectively.

Among teachers, the most popular second choice was a modified block at 38.6 percent and the third choice was six plus zero hour at 59.1 percent.

Among students, six plus zero hour was the most popular second and third choice at 43.2 percent and 40.9 percent, respectively. However, a modified block was the second most popular first choice at 31.8 percent.

The discussion is a part of the school board’s effort this fall to shape future policies.

The board will also make a final decision on senior early release during its meeting Wednesday.

During last week’s meeting, the board voted 5-1 to maintain the current policy for senior early release with Pete Paukstelis dissenting.

Paukstelis maintained that students should stay in school to learn more, while other board members mentioned positives such as college and work opportunities.

Current policy dictates that seniors only need to be on track for graduation and have parental approval in order to be eligible for early release. MHS seniors have the option of not taking one or two periods provided they are enrolled in five consecutive classes.

The vote would also require a definition of college and career readiness to be used for consideration when students seek to graduate early or utilize senior early release by the 2014-15 school year.

The MHS East facility analysis is coming back to the board. Members requested additional considerations before approving the beginning of the process of finding a firm to conduct this analysis.

The board wanted to include a cost-benefit evaluation for the facility’s life expectancy, and also wanted to compare the cost of new construction against the cost of maintaining the facility for the next 20 years.

The analysis is being requested because the board removed many potential elements of the renovation process to reduce the cost of the eventual $97.5 million bond issue.

The remaining issues include substantial amounts of asbestos in the building, drainage around the building, the building’s first floor and foundation, and the HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems.

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