For middle and high school students, next school year will mean more time in class. Just where that time comes from is a question schools are currently trying to answer.
With the state’s recent mandated requirement of 1,080 hours of instructional class time — an increase of 80 hours above the current minimum — beginning next fall, schools are looking at options to incorporate the hours, including lengthening school days, ending “early release” days or adding days to the school year.
The Hoquiam School Board is struggling with where to find the hours since the district has a relatively unusual circumstance of having a scheduled early release day each week — the “Team Wednesday” program, a pilot program in its second year. On Team Wednesdays, Hoquiam students are dismissed 90 minutes early so teachers may meet to review and plan for their individual classes, as well as to collaborate and discuss ideas for school development.
District Superintendent Mike Parker said Hoquiam High School still runs an average of about 1,056 hours per school year, and the middle school offers 1,054. The current state minimum is 1,000 hours of instruction — about 5.5 hours a day over a 180-day school year. The new minimum was approved in the 2009 special legislative session, but implementation was delayed until fall of 2014.
“The time is well used,” said Parker of “Team Wednesday” at the district’s board meeting last week. “I wouldn’t be a fan of Team Wednesday (being eliminated), but it is one of our options … I wouldn’t recommend it though.”
The increase in classroom hours is intended to give students opportunity for more credits for high school graduation, up to 24 (the current credit requirement is 19). The legislation also requires that the hour requirements apply as minimums by grade level rather than a district average across grades. More instruction in some grade levels can no longer be counted toward others, and a minimum of 1,000 hours for students in grades 1-6 will be enforced as well.
At the board’s last meeting members asked Parker to obtain more information on the topic. Last Thursday, Parker said he recently brainstormed ideas with administrative teams, and middle and high school staff, but that not much has been resolved yet.
“There aren’t any great ideas at this point,” he said.
Like many other schools across the state, the board is looking at potentially extending school days but will have to negotiate with the Hoquaim Teachers’ Association if it takes that route.
“If it’s an extended day, it needs to be negotiated, needs to be bargained,” said Parker.
Another idea the board discussed was extending the school day by 12 minutes (6 at the beginning and end of the day), which Parker said could generate about 36 hours, or possibly adding school days at the beginning or end of the school year.
School board members brainstormed over many options: Dave Westby said he is in favor of a plan that would add 2 or 3 minutes per class, because it “doesn’t impact anybody a great deal” and adds instructional hours. School board member Chris Eide said he thinks lengthening the day will be most effective for students.
A consensus was made by members in that they agree it must be a uniform idea they can implement across the board for the middle school and high school, without making two different schedules and making things more difficult for students and parents — or alienating teachers or school or sports administrators.
“My general thought on criteria is that it has to be fair, for everybody,” said Eide.
Parker said they also must keep in mind that while the new law pertains to grades 7 through 12, Hoquiam Middle School hosts grades 6, 7 and 8.
He said he would reintroduce the issue at their meeting next month after they have “plenty of time for feedback” and after they are able to see what happens in the legislative session.
Sam Luvisi: 360-537-3935 or firstname.lastname@example.org and @DwSluvisi on Twitter.