Secondary bell times to change in 2015-16

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Secondary students will have different bell time schedules in 2015-16 as schedules were finalized at Glacier Creek, Kromrey and MHS in the past week, District Communications Director Perry Hibner said.

The middle school day will still start at 8:20 a.m., but school will end at 3:36 p.m., which is 14 minutes earlier than it has been in 2014-15, Hibner said. Glacier Creek principal Tim Keeler and Kromrey principal Steve Soeteber said there were a few key reasons for the change:

  • Addressed after-school needs for families and after-school activities without significant impact to instructional time.
  • Adjusted the times for core and encore classes for various grade levels to take advantage of District teacher resources.
  • Minimized teacher travel between buildings to provide more in-school continuity.

The improvements were made at both middle schools after feedback from staff, students, parents and community members.

"We heard from some families of younger middle schoolers who believed the current schedule is too long,'' Hibner said. "The new schedule addresses those concerns.''

The new schedule is more than 40 hours above what is required for secondary students by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. In addition, instructional time for each class in the new schedule will only be one minute less than it currently is.

Classes at MHS will begin on A and B days at 8:25 a.m., while school will end at 3:44 p.m., which is 14 minutes earlier than it has been in 2014-15, Hibner said. Late starts have been eliminated.

Clark Street Community School, the District's project-based charter school for students in grades 9-12, will align with the MHS daily start and end times next year, but is still finalizing the daily schedule for next year, principal Jill Gurtner said. The schedule should be finalized before the end of the current school year, she said.

The improvements were made after significant feedback from staff, students, parents and community members over a number of months, said MHS principal Steve Plank, who oversaw a staffcommittee that met more than a half-dozen times and looked at multiple versions of possible schedules.

A few other changes of note related to the schedule:

  • Freshmen and sophomores will have lunch from 11:27 a.m. to 12:07 p.m.
  • Juniors and seniors will have lunch from 12:02 to 12:42 p.m.
  • All blocks will now be the same length (87 minutes).
  • All-school resource (ASR) has been extended to 87 minutes, which will be split into two periods with one 5-minute passing period.
  • Passing time will now be 8 minutes for all blocks, except during ASR.
  • Students will now have a 30-minute study hall on A days.

Plank said there were a few key reasons for the change:

  • The 2014-15 schedule only had one extra hour of instructional time, which means had MHS had any late starts or postponements due to inclement weather additional day(s) would have likely been added at the end of the school year.
  • The current schedule made it challenging to provide adequate supervision to students on B days between 8:25 and 9:20 because that was planned time for staff.
  • The new schedule will minimize the amount of instructional time lost at the end of the day for students released from school early due to athletics and other activities.
  • The new schedule still maintains support time for staff (PLC) and students (all-school resource and advisory).

The new schedule is more than 40 hours above what is required for secondary students by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. That means if the District could call off school up to five times in 2015-16 due to inclement weather before having to worry about adding any additional days at the end of the school year. For reference, the District has never had to call off school for more than four days at any time over the past five years.

It is important to note that transportation schedules also limit what can be done at the secondary level, Hibner said. The District hired an independent firm to review its transportation needs a year ago and it was determined that at least 35-45 minutes are needed to transport elementary students to and from school.

 Plank also emphasized a few other important points:

  • Consistency between days is achieved -- with the exact same bells on each day. It also affords students a guarantee of having lunch at the same time every day and allows all students to have two classes both before and after lunch.
  • ASR remains at the end of the day allowing for athletes to miss this instead of a class.
  • ASR is a full block allowing students to travel once instead of being required to stay in one place the entire time.
  • Advisory continues in the middle of the day, which is preferred by many students and staff as a break in the day.
  • The addition of the study hall on A days affords students down time, and will allow MHS to be more strategic in advisory with students in grades 10-12.

"We don’t take schedule changes lightly, however, we also believe it is important to improve the schedule when possible,'' Hibner said. "We believe these improvements do that.''

The elementary schedule and the 4K morning and afternoon schedules will remain the same in 2015-16,  Hibner said.