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A nine-period middle school day? SWR officials weigh pros and cons

In an effort to provide students in remedial education courses with more opportunities, a ninth period may be added to the Prodell Middle School bell schedule.

At last Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Gerard Poole said the district hosted a parent informational session last week and released a community survey to receive feedback on the option of giving students in grades 6-8 another class period.

That feedback overwhelmingly focused on improving extra help programs at the middle school, Mr. Poole said, most of which begin before first period. Other parents asked questions about how school start times will shift if another class period is added.

Under the current bell schedule, the eighth period begins at 1:16 p.m. and ends at 1:55 p.m.

Last year, the district’s Curriculum Development Committee, which reviews programs throughout the district, formed a subcommittee to explore options that would expose more students to exploratory courses that connect with their interests while maximizing instructional time.

At Prodell, two periods run before the first period begins. The first 40-minute period runs from 7:15 a.m. to 7:55 a.m. and the second 20-minute period runs from 8 a.m. to 8:20 a.m.

Middle school principal Kevin Vann, who works with the subcommittee, said at a Jan. 7 board meeting that over half of the middle school’s students attend morning period activities on a regular basis.

A quarter of all students are involved in the musical ensemble, which meets during the morning period. Other students attend extra help courses in that period, he said.

But under a nine-period day, all students would be required to start their school day at 7:20 a.m. — just five minutes after the morning period currently begins.

“If we were to add a ninth period, it frees up the scheduling process a little bit, and it is more likely that a common prep time for teachers during the day can be generated, which reaps a lot of rewards,” Mr. Vann said, according to board meeting minutes.

He added that the nine-period day would move the music ensembles inside of the scheduled school day and allow Earth Science students to take an exploratory class. It would also provide the structure to offer additional exploratory courses based on student interest, such as career and technical education, sustainability and civics and career exploration.

It could also potentially enable students to earn additional college level credits in high school, putting them at an advantage earlier on in their educational careers.

Mr. Poole said last Tuesday that the subcommittee aims to discuss the survey results and discuss alternative bell schedule models as a solution.

Board vice president Katie Andersen commended the work of the subcommittee and the responsiveness of the administration to community input. She said she’s looking forward to hearing additional options.

“I think that what became clear was that there’s more we can do and there’s more that should be done,” Ms. Andersen said. “As a board, I feel we can be proud of how fluid this process is, and how the work of the subcommittee wasn’t set in stone and the administration took the community’s input.”

Mr. Poole said the shift would be a “big community decision.”

“They are involved and I feel like they should be involved,” Mr. Poole said. “Things are only successful when all voices are heard and you come up with a plan where everybody feels listened to.”

Mr. Vann was not immediately available for comment.