MHS teachers want retention of 7-hour plan

By Bryan Richardson

Speakers argued for the status quo during a hearing Wednesday on possible scheduling changes at Manhattan High School.

The district’s Board of Education held the hearing to gather feedback on three options presented to the board by a task force in December. Those options included a six plus zero hour schedule with a late start day, a seven hour modified block schedule with two block days, and the current seven hour schedule.

MHS math teacher Ray Kujawa told the board he spoke for the teachers in favor of keeping the current schedule.

He said this process has a similar feel to when MHS took on a modified 6-period block schedule with zero hour in the 1990s despite questions about why it was being done.

MHS had that schedule from 1997 to 1999 when the graduation requirement was 21 classes. The current seven-hour schedule began in 1999, and 24 classes are required for graduation.

“There hasn’t been clearly a great reason why we’re changing what we’re doing right now,” Kujawa said. “As I talk to teachers in the hallway, we feel like the things we’re doing and the accomplishments of the kids in the school are tremendous.”

Kujawa said he was also concerned about a possible 39-hour reduction in instructional time; he suggested that one of the schedule task force members had been unaware of that during a presentation to teachers.

“Instructional time should be one of the first if not the first item you would think about as you’re making a change to a different schedule,” he said.

MHS special education teacher Gordon Thornton said the board has been advocating an increase in instructional time for years. “I find it kind of ironic that the board is looking at a schedule that reduces contact time by about 40 hours, which is a little over a week’s time,” he said.

Board president Dave Colburn said the board is considering a change in order to provide equity in planning, professional development and collaboration time for all teachers. The board is also considering changes to the daily schedule for elementary school teachers.

Colburn said the goal of the process is to find potential savings in the high school schedule, the idea being to use those savings to provide more planning time for elementary school teachers.

A six plus zero hour schedule could see a 10 to 16 percent staff reduction (11-18 teachers) and a cost reduction of $506,000 to $828,000 based on a beginning teacher’s salary with benefits of $46,000.

However, the MHS schedule task force didn’t endorse that schedule during a December presentation to the board.

Each of the three options for the elementary school schedule will cost money to implement, according to the elementary schedule task force.

The plan deemed the best by the task force sets aside eight days for professional development and eight early release days plus 60 minutes per week for collaboration time. The total estimated cost for the plan is $450,000 to hire the minimum of 9.8 faculty members needed.

The next best plan has eight days for professional development time and eight early release days for collaboration. At a minimum, a total of 2.8 additional faculty at a cost of approximately $128,800 would be needed.

The least expensive of the three plans has 6.5 days for professional development, and four early release days and three half-days for collaboration. At a minimum, a total of 2.8 additional faculty at a cost of approximately $128,800 would be needed.

Colburn said the district has to find time for teachers to better prepare for teaching students, especially as a change to the national common core standards is being made.

“I don’t think any of us are saying that (MHS) is not doing great,” he said. “What we are saying is we’re in a changing environment. Change is the order of the day.”

District transportation director Doug Messer said the transportation system’s interconnectivity would make it hard to have a late start date for the high school without making other schools also have late start times.

“Even at the 90 minutes (late start), we’re still pushing into elementary time when we pick up students,” he said. “We just don’t have the equipment to do that.”

Messer said additional resources would be needed to accommodate a late start day without pushing everybody’s start time back. He said more resources would also be needed to accommodate a zero hour schedule.

The board is to decide the high school schedule Jan. 23, but Colburn said the need for more information about transportation and other areas may push that back.

The board also accepted $61,405 in unused contingency funds from Adolfson and Peterson Construction from the MHS West Campus project and discussed the upcoming legislative discussions about the second count date.

The second count date – Feb. 20 – began in 2005 and is exclusively for military-impacted districts. It is to expire without legislative action.

The district has averaged around $540,000 in additional funding due the second count date in the past five years.

For 2013, the district estimates an additional $479,750. Supt. Bob Shannon said 93 students are currently enrolled who weren’t enrolled Jan. 1. The Feb. 20 count date only counts new arrivals, which means a district isn’t harmed if students leave during the year.

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