Time needed to review scheduling change

Letter to the Editor

There has been much publicity and energy focused on the middle-school boundary issue. While this is an important issue in our district, I’d like to address another proposal that I don’t believe the community is aware of.

SVSD is proposing a weekly early-release day to give teachers more planning time. I have received mixed comment from school district employees about the timing of this change. There is a very real chance it will be pushed through by Fall 2004 without the proper research for the effects it will have on the entire community. From my perspective as a parent, this change is being considered in a very cavalier manner. There has been very little effort to inform the public of what’s at stake.

The public forum meeting on March 31 wasn’t on the school Web calendar, and it was scheduled on a night with several other district conflicts. As I understand it, the group formed to research options for this change did not even include a parent. The new Mount Si sports stadium design group has parents. I’m the parent of a football player and I love supporting Wildcat football, but why should it be more important to have parental feedback for a stadium than for how our students receive teaching time?

There have been no automated phone calls from the schools to inform people of the forum or the issue. Pushing to have this new calendar in effect for fall 2004 shows little regard for the thoroughness needed to make as smooth a transition as possible. Other school districts put in considerably more time researching the possible effects of such a drastic change to the schedule.

Please remember that this will affect not just teachers and students. Parents, employers, day cares, coaches, the transportation department and neighbors are some of the others that will be impacted.

I am very concerned about the early release vs. late arrival for the middle schools and high school. The late arrival makes more sense for several reasons. Research and common sense tell us teens need to sleep in. Who wants to see all these teens running all over town starting at lunch time once a week? Again, research and common sense tell us the after-school hours are high-risk times for high-risk behaviors. Why increase that amount of time? For those students in after-school activities, it is more sensible to have the afternoon schedule consistent with the other days of the week.

Other area districts employing this weekly half-format day use Wednesdays. Our district is leaning toward Fridays. While I don’t think there is an ideal day, it seems that Fridays could present a concern for student absenteeism.

Another issue I’m concerned about is the length of class time on the shortened day. When I asked about having periods 1-2-3 one week and 4-5-6 the next, I was told this wouldn’t be an option. Class time is so limited now, I truly believe a shortened day will be treated by the students with a half-day mentality. I have heard repeatedly from students at Mount Si that they mentally write off half days and assembly days. This needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

As much as the teachers need more planning time, so do our students need more teaching time. There has to be a compromise, but it will take more than a couple of months to find it.

I urge all community members to become informed about this proposal and give the school district feedback regarding your concerns and ideas. The current proposal can be viewed on the homepage at www.snoqualmie.-wednet.edu. Unfortunately, there are no other public forums scheduled at this time. Phone calls and letters to the school board seem to be the only choices. The research committee is going to present its newest information to the school board in May. Public comment before this time is crucial.

Thank you for becoming involved in our school district! Our kids are worth it!

Denise Hisey

North Bend