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8-period schedule adopted for GBHS
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Great Bend High School teacher Sarah Ellegood talks to the school board about the pros and cons of changing the GBHS schedule from a seven-period day to an eight-period day. On Monday the school board approved the change, recommended by teachers, counselors and administrators. - photo by Susan Thacker

It’s official: Great Bend High School students will have an eight-period school day this fall. The school board unanimously approved the change Monday after hearing the pros and cons of replacing the current seven-period schedule. The overall length of the school day will not increase, GBHS Principal Tim Friess said.

Eleven teachers, counselors and administrators shared their recommendation with the school board. However, Friess quickly read a petition signed by 182 of the high school’s 875 students who want to continue with the present schedule.

Some of those students attended the school board meeting but chose not to speak. Their petition raised concerns about overload. They will lose the daily advisory time, where they can relax or finish assignments. They will have more work and less time to do it.

Friess said 65 people from the school improvement team were polled and all of them were on board with the change. “One hundred percent of them said this was the right move,” he said. “We do feel that this is what’s best for our kids.”

Art instructor Sergio Rameriz said students can take more classes and pick up more credits toward graduation. The schedule will be more consistent as there will be no more days with late start times. Students’ daily “advisory time” will be eliminated. This schedule will also allow teachers to have daily collaborative time with other teachers in addition to their daily planning time.

“We really need a dedicated collaborative time for teachers,” he said.

Students will be able to add electives to their schedules, take more Continuing Technical Education (CTE) courses and make up credits without going to summer school.

Another GBHS teacher, Sarah Ellegood, touched on the “cons” of this schedule. They include, “change is hard,” classes will be three minutes shorter, creating less time for labs, there could be more homework and students could feel overloaded, experiencing “the eighth-hour burnout.” Teachers took a survey of the amount of homework they assign and concluded the homework issue could be dealt with. Students can take electives that don’t require extra homework and teachers can make adjustments if they see a problem.

Board member Cheryl Rugan said added homework does concerns families who contacted her. “The homework is what I heard most about,” she said. Students will have one more class and will no longer have advisory time, which is when some finish their homework.

Karen Maier shared the teachers’ vision of what collaborative time might look like and said the time will be beneficial to teachers and students.

English teacher Kayci Strickland agreed. “It’s time we don’t have built into our day,” she said. “We have to be able to be on the same page with our planning.”

Carol Pfannenstiel looked at how her students use the advisory time and concluded about half of them use it to complete homework, although they don’t need the entire period for that. “Nine of my 17 students on average sat there and did nothing,” she said.

“I think for most kids having another elective will be a great thing,” Rugan said. But she still had concerns about how it will affect some students. For a variety of reasons, not everyone can use the time before and after school for tutoring, clubs and other things they used to be able to do during the day. They also need time to socialize.

“As we value the teachers’ collaborative time, we need to value the students’ time too,” she said. “We as a board, it’s our obligation to ask the hard questions.”

Assistant Principal Randy Wetzel said the switch from a block schedule to a seven-period day reduced the number of CTE courses students enrolled in. With an eight-period day, more students could take CTE and the district will receive more state funding for teaching those courses.

It takes 24 credits to graduate and in theory a student could earn that in three years. However, courses such as senior English and government are only offered to seniors, and the school board has a policy that requires students to complete seven semesters to graduate, Friess said.

Board member Jacquie Disque also had misgivings about the change, although after the presentation the board approved it with a unanimous vote. Disque said she sees how the eighth period can help students who want to take more advanced-placement courses and students who need extra help.

“My biggest concern comes with these kids in the middle,” Disque said. Going to school is their “job,” and with one more class to manage every day their job becomes more stressful.

“This is a big change and we want to make sure we do it for the right reasons,” Superintendent Khris Thexton said. “We ought to give it a shot and see what happens.”

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting:

• A proposal to change the Great Bend High School schedule from a seven-period day to an eight-period day this fall was approved.

• The English Language Arts curriculum proposed for GBHS and the middle school was approved.

• The flooring bid for Jefferson and Lincoln schools was approved. It went to low bidder 4-State Maintenance Supply, based in Coffeyville, for $235,000. Additional bids will be taken for asbestos removal.

• The board approved the purchase of computers, and will make old computers available for district employees to purchase; 125 desktop and 90 laptop computers to a total of $204,645; personnel can pay $100 for an old laptop, $75 for a desktop; $35 for an iPad and $30 for a Chromebook.

• A new assessment system, FastBridge, was approved, at an approximate cost of $18,500 per year. It replaces Aimsweb 1.0 and NWEA Map, which cost the district $22,450.

• Community members will once again purchase bicycles for the Perfect Attendance Bicycle Giveaway at the end of the school year. Typically, the group led by Karen Shaner provides four bikes for each elementary school.

• Assistant Superintendent John Popp reported the Kansas Education System Accreditation “Outside Validation Team” will visit Great Bend on March 26. State assessments will begin March 18.

• Popp also reported that recruiting teachers for unfilled positions will be difficult this year.

• Superintendent Khris Thexton said Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson will visit Great Bend on April 1.

• Thexton also reported that next year the school district will be asked to share the cost of school crossing guards with the Great Bend Police Department. It costs about $30,000 a year; the City will continue to train and equip guards, and building principals will decide who is appointed to positions.

• A list of contributions was approved.

• Prior to the meeting at the District Education Center, school board members were served a meal prepared by the Student Leadership Team at Park Elementary School.