Hundreds Of Students Voice Opposition To MHS Schedule Change

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MTT News Desk's picture
By: 
Matt Geiger
Middleton High School plans to replace 95-minute resource periods every fourth day with 52-minute periods every other day.

Hundreds of local students began organizing Sunday to oppose an impending schedule change at Middleton High School. They plan to take their argument all the way to the school board if they feel they have to.

The students signed on in support of a letter written by Adam Jordahl, who is wrapping up his junior year. Jordahl’s letter expresses concern the school did not make an adequate effort to inform its students of a significant change to “All School Resource” periods.

Jordahl contends the decision to split those periods roughly in half would cause an array of scheduling problems for students. He writes the change would allow less time for pupils who need to use the periods to study, make up important tests, and do other classwork.

“The current schedule system works for students,” Jordahl wrote. “It’s not fair or practical for the administration to make last-minute changes that will negatively impact our academic future.”

The petition, which garnered more than 500 signatures in its first two days online, quickly caught the attention of MHS administrators, prompting principal Denise Herrmann to call for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the change with concerned students.

Herrmann said the school disseminated information about the issue in several ways. She indicated the change is intended to increase student attendance during All School Resource periods, improve the school’s ability to accurately monitor student attendance in the online Infinite Campus, and bolster the school’s ability to build the master schedule on a two-day rotation instead of a four-day rotation.

Herrmann met students to discuss the issue on Monday, but Jordahl left unconvinced any changes would be made.

“She didn’t seem too keen on changing things, despite the growing support we had,” Jordahl said following the meeting.

He said students plan to make their case before the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District Board of Education at its June 10 meeting.

“We figure maybe we’ll have a better chance of being heard there,” he said.

Jordahl’s letter laid out an array of concerns about the scheduling change.

“With only five days left in the school year, Middleton High School (MHS) students were told that the administration was making major changes to our class schedule for the third time in four years,” stated Jordahl’s letter, which was posted on the website change.org.

Jordahl, a member of the Middleton High School debate team, alleged the change, “will not benefit a single student.”

The letter - which was addressed to Denise Herrmann, MHS Principal; Don Johnson, MCPASD Superintendent; and Ellen Lindgren, MCPASD Board of Education President – prompted a written reply from the principal by the end of Sunday, the same day it went public.

“Students and parents were skeptical two years ago when MHS changed from a traditional class schedule, with students attending seven 50-minute classes every day, to block scheduling, where students take seven classes but attend only four 95-minute classes on A & C days and three ninety-minute class periods on B & D days,” Jordahl wrote. “One of the biggest selling points of the block schedule was the 95 minute late school start on B days and the 95 minute all school resource period on D days.”

He said students have adapted to the block schedule and have taken advantage of “B days” to study, work on group projects or make up tests and labs they missed due to illness, field trips, music, club or athletic events. Some students use the time to catch up on sleep or attend medical and dental appointments, he said.

He added that students use All School Resource time to complete homework, get extra help from teachers, receive peer tutoring. Band, orchestra and choir teachers hold small group lessons during the time as well.

The block schedule also makes it possible for students to attend advanced math and other classes at UW-Madison and MATC, he added.

“But after only two years, and without explanation or student input, the administration plans to cut our late start and all school resource periods in half,” he wrote. “The change will mean that students who are struggling will have less time to get extra help, and all students will have a harder time making up tests and labs. Many will end up missing critical class time for medical and dental appointments.”

Parents and students who chimed in on the issue at change.org wrote that they believe the schedule change, and the way it was communicated to students, belies Middleton High School’s desired reputation as an institution that values its students’ input.

“It’s worthwhile pointing out that usually when they want us to know something, they are very good about it,” said Jordahl in an interview with the Middleton Times-Tribune. “None of those things happened this time.”

In her reply to students, Herrmann countered that the school district used several methods to disseminate scheduling information to students.

“I am sorry if some of you did not hear about the new schedule sooner, but I feel the need to explain the ways we communicated about the new schedule over the past six weeks,” she wrote.

Herrmann said all students, parents, and staff received a link to a survey about the schedule in mid-April. (Students countered that the title of that survey, “Bell Preference Survey,” did not accurately represent the significance of the changes being considered.)

“We received 138 responses from a possible 1969 students; 262 responses from a possible 1969 parents; and 118 responses from a possible 142 teachers/staff,” Herrmann wrote. “[T]he new schedule [was] discussed at the MHS Senate for three consecutive weeks - with the new schedule being announced in late April.”

Herrmann said the new daily schedule was published on the MHS website in early May, and she wrote an article in the May Cardinal Connection newsletter with detailed information about it.

Herrmann also noted that the amount of All School Resource time will increase under the new schedule - from 95-minutes every fourth day to 52 minutes every other day, which adds up to 104 minutes every fourth day.

In an update written on Monday, Herrmann said some students had presented “strong and convincing reasons why they want the schedule to stay as it is right now.”

“However, the petition also included some misinformation,” Herrmann added in her email, which was sent to MHS staff.

Jordahl said the Class of 2014 was slated to have more students attending advanced classes at UW Madison next year than ever before, but the proposed schedule change will make it much more difficult, and in some cases impossible, for students to participate in the program.

“MHS students were required to complete class requests several weeks ago. We researched options with our counselors and made difficult choices to accommodate our academic priorities,” he wrote. “Now, in the middle of final exam week, hundreds of students are being told they must make new class choices to accommodate the administration’s latest scheduling change.”

 

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