Community backlash leads to district change

Maddie Dailey and Lauren Walker

    After various parent meetings, a petition, and student press conferences, the superintendent amended his set of plans for the future of students’ schedules.

    Superintendent Rick Schmitt received backlash for his plan to take away a seventh period option in the past two months. However, he has now updated his plans and promised to fight to keep a seventh period option for incoming freshman and other future high school students.

    His original plan was to remove zero period in hopes of reducing stress of students, alleviating the need for extra funding, and providing more options to students and teachers with staggered start times. Though following an enormous community response, these ideas have changed.

      “I believe the feedback is very important,” Schmitt said. “We are in a very important phase, a problem solving phase.”

    The most controversial of his ideas, the notion of taking away zero period, threatened to hurt the arts programs on campus that need a seven period day for optimum participation. This was followed by an October forum in which parents, students, and teachers all expressed their concerns. Schmitt recognized this and came back with the following statement.

    “All students will have access to a seventh period option, students will be able to take two on campus electives,” he said. “None of you will have to do anything different next year at all. The one thing that is not yet quite worked out, is what we are going to do next year with ninth graders. It’s a very complex process with laws and contracts. The idea is next year is that each ninth grader will be able to take the same two electives [current students] did.”

    After this revision, Schmitt discussed his primary goal: to increase the freedom for all members of our educational community.

    “One size doesn’t fit all,” Schmitt said.

    Schmitt made it clear during the student press conference that his original ten ideas have changed and that he was making an extensive effort to listen to the concerns of the communities in our district before making any more final decisions.

    In his other nine ideas, Schmitt hopes to continue achieving his goal of increasing opportunities for students as well as staff.

    He still hopes to implement a staggered schedule of start times and end times, giving students the option to take anywhere from five to seven classes. This has some controversy with its possible effect on sports, but because this is still in the works, Schmitt had little information on how sports’ schedules might change.

    Schmitt addressed decreasing the graduation requirements as well to accommodate for the decreased amount of required classes on campus.

    He also wants to give students a full year of PE credits from an independent PE, like sports. Currently, sports are given a half years worth of credit. In addition, Schmitt wishes to allow us to incorporate it into our on campus schedule if we so choose.

    Another item on Schmitt’s list was student stress, specifically, the stress from the daily schoolloop updates sent to parents and students.

    “We want to make it more passive, easier to opt in and opt out,” Schmitt said. “It is designed to [create] a healthy relationship with your parents.”

    This would be done by giving the option for weekly or even monthly updates, rather than daily ones.

    In addition, for middle schoolers he wants to make a second year language class available, as opposed to the current situation where students are only able to complete the equivalent of one high school year in two years of middle school. To do this, students could choose to take, for example, Spanish 1A and 1B during sixth and seventh grade and Spanish 2 during eighth grade.

     Schmitt also wants to create an option in middle schools similar to that in high school, where students could choose to take fewer classes.

    “The idea would be if it is a lifestyle choice for a family to take six [classes], it would not be required, but designed to create flexibility for you and your parents.”

    Finally, the superintendent incorporated off campus flexibility into his hopes for our future schedules. Schmitt claims the new schedule will give more opportunity for internships and off campus classes, especially language.

    He explained that these classes will also be better incorporated into transcripts and increased credit will be awarded for hard work outside of school.

    Overall, the superintendent seems to be taking the majority of the feedback sent his way, and changes in line with community thinking look to be on the horizon.