Proposal is driven by desire to improve achievement, the say

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

Answering criticism from a local couple, Burlington Area School District officials have reaffirmed their support to switch to a seven-period day next year at Burlington High School.

“Yes, absolutely,” said BASD Superintendent David Moyer. “There’s a variety of factors that are in play with the decision. They are not all related to cost.”

Moyer added that with all the various issues that have cropped up over time, a solution has been looked at for years. The fact that it will likely save the district some money is just a side benefit.

“We didn’t feel the current model of the high school was sustainable,” Moyer said. “We couldn’t continue that anymore.”

Both Moyer and School Board Member Larry Anderson listed a number of reasons that going to a traditional seven-period day used by most high schools was preferable. But foremost, they said, was to improve student achievement.

Anderson said students will hopefully be able to learn more effectively by returning to the seven-period day, which will eliminate gaps between core classes and raise the difficulty of the material being taught.

“This is the main reason (we’re doing this), other than cost,” Anderson said.

Among the other reasons is that, with the schedule switch, teachers will be required to take supervisory duties that, right now, the district pays aides to cover. Those duties will include watching a study hall and lunch duty.

“We pay people to supervise those. We pay people to supervise lunch,” Moyer said.

While Roger and Julie Koldeway both said at last week’s board meeting that the block scheduling – with eight hours that include the option for uninterrupted 90-minute blocks – would be more cost-effective than going to a seven-period day, both Moyer and Anderson have disputed that.

Anderson said the district will not have to hire more teachers. The reason is that while the block scheduling allowed for smaller class sizes for electives, it fails to maximize the number of students being taught in each of those classes.

In addition, they contend, because block scheduling (and electives) provides so many different options, most of the scheduling is being done by hand to accommodate each and every student. That is more time consuming than computerized scheduling.

Switching to the seven-period day will simplify matters, Anderson said, and get more students in elective classes.

“We will end up filling up our classes better,” Anderson explained.

Moyer agreed.

“(And) now the elective classes are going to be more 28, 29, 30 kids in elective classes – the same as core classes,” the superintendent explained.

Still, the Koldeways are maintaining cost savings could be achieved by staying with the eight-period block schedule, which would be a benefit to students who want more options.