SMUHSD Debating a Change to a Quarter System?

Updates in reverse chronological order are at the top of this post.  Please scroll down to read the original post first if you have not already done so.

UPDATE on 6/10/2020 2:05 PM – Two articles on the school reopening controversy have appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal.  These articles are copyrighted, so you need an account to access them.  You can see one free story per month without an account or three per month with a free account.  Otherwise if you don’t want to pay for a subscription, you’ll have to pick up a free hardcopy at a newsstand or store.

https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/san-mateo-union-high-school-district-quarter-system-raises-concerns/article_9ade5d76-aad0-11ea-8905-97b6635acf65.html

https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/divergent-opinions-on-school-reopening-plans-in-san-mateo-county/article_9c01206c-aad0-11ea-8677-0f03982bd7d8.html

UPDATE on 6/15/2020 at 10:20 PM after ones on 6/9/2020 at 5:20 PM and again on 6/10/2020  at 2:35 PM

(6/15) Mr. Binetti has revamped his website once again and has restored the deleted videos mentioned immediately below.

(6/10) I wrote the two paragraphs below yesterday evening.  Mr.Binetti overnight removed his previous four videos and his list of research references and on 6/10/2020 only has a single video designed to get people to sign his letter.  This change looks extremely bad in my opinion as he did this switcheroo AFTER receiving evidence countering his position.  This is intellectually dishonest and appears as simply an attempt to promote his petition drive!!

(6/9) In another thread on Nextdoor at https://nextdoor.com/post/151144511, a series of videos on a site called https://www.startnormal.com has been discussed. They are made by a San Carlos resident.

In his first three videos, he tries to make a compelling case using research studies that COVID-19 will not spread in schools, but then has to backpedal in his fourth video when viewers presented him with two cases in which spread did happen. He concludes that we don’t yet know why it happened in those two cases, but the scores of other studies still say that school transmission is not likely. I am just passing this on in the interest of looking at all sides of the issue. He also is running a petition drive to reopen schools normally. If interested, I would encourage you to watch all four videos first before you make a decision to sign.

UPDATE on 6/9/2020 at 10:30 AM – There is an online petition for those opposed to the quarter system available at https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/smuhsd-vote-no-on-the-quarter-system-proposal.

UPDATE on 6/9/2020 at 5:00 AM – The following note, posted late last night by Anne Pesquie, is from the Nextdoor discussion on this topic available at https://nextdoor.com/post/150484676 for those who have Nextdoor access in the mid-SF Peninsula area.  I am trying to post the most important excerpts from that very lengthy and deeply nested conversation here.

Update 06/08.
All teachers from the district received (finally) an email from the superintendent communicating about the possible new blended/quarter schedule.

One hour later, they also received an email from a group of teachers (from multiple high schools) stating that even after talking with Dr Skelly for two hours, regarding an alternating schedule for the fall semester that would avoid blended/quarter system, it seems that his decision is already made to fully support the blended/quarter system.

On the email, this group of teachers shared their plan, “a 80/20 remote/blended model with room for on-campus support”, which is not “perfected or complete” and “does not necessarily mean 100% of our faculty is behind it”. (link below)

Teachers, parents, students who disagree with the district’s plan at least can sign a petition “What is the Best Instructional Model Amidst the Pandemic?”

plan=> https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1jZu_UOpwI5opT9LRdypp2trwzSWOn2hh7f057rhdBEE/edit#slide=id.p

petition=> https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MKLliR5ludJq70SWuVwxp99h-rbOeoSzZyHCfXckWE0/edit

They concluded by “Other parent and teacher groups have been working hard on their own proposals for alternatives. This is not to go against any of that work, but hopefully to combine our conversations and work together to find a better solution.”

personal side note: This is not a leak, I asked permission to put it online.

I should note that the Superintendent is in the position of having to navigate through all of the conflicting interests on this issue.  The final decision will be made by the Board.  In the recent Credit/No Credit decision, the Board, by a narrow margin, sided with the teachers’ position.

Once again the teachers and a significant number of parents are at odds.  The factor that will finally tip this issue will be health threats to the teaching staff in my opinion, but I will not be speaking at the meeting, just observing.

Anne also posted this eye-opening story about what happened in Israel after school reopened.

Parents should remember that “essential workers” are still supposed to be protected from health threats!  Teachers did not sign up to deal with potentially life-threatening work on a daily basis.  Even doctors and nurses work (or are supposed to work!) with protective equipment, and they can attempt to isolate ill patients and limit their movement.  Teachers have no comparable control in a school setting when it comes to possible asymptomatic spreaders!  Incoming temperature checks are their only defense and will they all be issued N95 masks??!

The Board may very well decide in favor of a 100% online learning model to begin the year, but try to stick with a reasonably normal school day and semester schedule.  This will make the teachers happy, and the parents may go away at least relieved that they didn’t get the quarter system!!  That would be a very clever use of a straw man argument, wouldn’t it?!??

 

UPDATE on 6/8/2020 at 4:00 PM – A PDF of the full Return to School Committee Presentation can be downloaded by clicking on this link and has been inserted into the Board Meeting Agenda in the Attachments section just before agenda item L.2.  It is a massive slide deck (66 slides – 52 in the main part plus an Appendix of 14!!), and I am concerned that this could turn into the longest Board meeting in SMUHSD history…

UPDATE on 6/6/2020 at 9:00 PM – An open letter from members of the Return to School scheduling subcommittee opposing the Quarter system has been added to the Comments section below.

UPDATE on 6/6/2020 at 3:05 PM – The Board meeting agenda and attendance information has been published at https://www.smuhsd.org/Page/2235.  The Agenda item appears to be L. 1. but the presentations will not be attached until Monday, so it is difficult to know what the Board will actually see at this time.  There will also be significant business conducted before this agenda item.

UPDATE on 6/6/2020 at 7:45 AM – A letter from Craig Childress, the president of the SMUHSD Teachers Association to the Superintendent and the Board has been posted in the Comments section following the article.  Teachers are advocating for 100% Distance  Learning in the Fall.  An additional slide deck on the issue is also included below.

UPDATE on 6/5/2020 at 8:00 AM – A PDF version of the slide deck (without the excessive animations in the original) has been received and added to this article below.


Original Post on 6/4/2020 – A report on Nextdoor yesterday evening indicated that an “internal Return to School subcommittee for scheduling” … “is planning on moving to a quarter system (9 weeks of 3 classes with finals) and dispensing with the semester system in ALL HIGH SCHOOLS in the district as a way to reduce teacher exposure to Covid in the classroom.”

The Nextdoor post can be found here, but Nextdoor access depends upon your neighborhood location, and people outside of the distribution area and those without Nextdoor accounts will not be able to view it.

I have checked with several parents who I know, and they have not received any notifications as of this AM.

Comments on Nextdoor state that the change to a quarter system

“is most likely to be presented as the “best option” at the Board of Trustees meeting next week on June 11 after being discussed minimally in subcommittee. Anyone interested should attend the meeting virtually (Zoom info will be available here): https://www.smuhsd.org/Page/2235 to find out more and write to Dr. Skelly and board members (emails here: https://www.smuhsd.org/Page/2231) in order to understand and share opinions.”

I should add that the Board is very likely stuck between a rock and a hard place on this issue as often happens.  I do not know what kind of feedback that they are getting from teachers about their concerns regarding contracting COVID-19 when school resumes.  I wrote about this critical safety issue near the end of my article Will “Online Learning” Work?  Please keep this important issue in mind when expressing your opinions if you attend this meeting.

The community needs to work out a solution that balances all needs to the best of its ability.  No one will walk away completely happy.

Students have also told me that an option of having every student attend school one week out of three has also been discussed (1/3 of students at school each week followed by two weeks of online learning).  I am not sure why this rotation was chosen versus having one third come in every third day (too confusing for the kids?? Do they want each cohort to stay out for two weeks to see if they subsequently come down with COVID-19??  Other reasons??)  Hallways will supposedly also have one-way markings to reduce problems between classes.

Given the equity issues that I also discussed in Will “Online Learning” Work?, it might make sense to have students without Internet access attend school full time or else these students will quickly fall irretrievably behind.

Alternatively, there have been some GoFundMe campaigns for homeless people and families on Nextdoor.  In light of the current racial strife in our country, perhaps our community should seriously consider a fundraising drive for SMUHSD, SMFCSD, or whatever your local district is, and provide technology to ALL of our students.  It would be preferable for a fund to be set up directly in each district for this purpose instead of giving cuts of valuable education dollars to “middle men.”

This might be the single best action that we could take to improve race relations in our community.  After all, education “is the only valid passport from poverty.

Here is a PDF of the slide deck for the Return to School subcommittee meeting scheduled for 9:00 AM on 6/5/2020:

Quarter System Schedule Options

After the meeting mentioned above I received the following slide deck with sample schedule information.  This appears to supplement the material above:

Sample Schedules Quarter Schedule

The Statement on the fifth slide of this second deck from Amy Johnstone, the Burlingame HS PTO President, describes several reasons for students to return to school and ends with “And I do believe that educators are an essential business workforce.”   It is both interesting and concerning:

The Spirit of Our Work
“It feels like there is an assumption that DL is the safer choice. But when campus closed, many of our most vulnerable students and families went dark – we had no eyes on them and minimal communications. DL addresses curriculum and academics but our schools are so much more than that – they are places of nutrition, mental health, mentoring and mandated reporting. Sometimes our campuses are the safest place for our students. We can control the school environment, based on science and best practices, and adapt as needed. Not every home environment is providing that level of stability, safety and responsiveness. I do believe that for some of our students, every minute they spend on campus is safer and better for them. And I do believe that educators are an essential business workforce.”
– Amy Johnstone, BHS Parent, PTO President

As I stated on Nextdoor the opposing sides need to proceed cautiously if we are to resolve this issue:

I noted, in a different school reopening discussion on Nextdoor, some statistics from the San Mateo-Foster City School District indicating that 1 out of six teachers were in the 50 years old and above category, a higher risk group for severe COVID-19. I do not know the numbers for the SMUHSD teachers, but would not be surprised if it is similar.

Parents have a legitimate concern to get the best education possible for their children (and this is unlikely to happen via 100% distance learning), but many parents also want to be able to go back to work themselves and not have to watch their kids.

Teachers nearing retirement may be very hesitant to expose themselves to possibly serious disease.

It is very hard to see how these differing interests can be reconciled without significant compromise. If teachers are pressed too hard, the District might lose some valuable experienced staff who decide it is safer to just retire despite taking a possibly lower retirement income. Everyone loses in this scenario.

On the other hand if teachers press for distance learning and don’t follow through, there will also be a lot of upset. Parents report elsewhere on Nextdoor that the actual online effort between teachers in various schools (and even between teachers at the same school) is unfortunately wildly variable. Explanations given, like some teachers having to also take care of their own kids, are not heard sympathetically by, e.g., nurses who are risking their lives daily but also have kids who need watching.

Reconciling these issues is going to require a serious, yet calm and rational discussion that unfortunately seems to be less common lately. I hope the community does itself proud in this regards. I would not be surprised if part of the reason for the limited distribution of the plans so far is precisely a fear of such contentious debate.

Please scroll down to the Comments section to see a letter from the SMUHSD Teachers Association President to the SMUHSD Superintendent and Board of Trustees.  Other material will also be included below as it arrives.

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired scientist, teacher, bioinformatician, IT director, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist (7690 miles and 724,300 feet of climbing in 2015), backpacker, you name it! Current avocation is tutoring high school students near San Mateo, CA in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Please see the Bio link in the right sidebar for my detailed background information.

3 thoughts on “SMUHSD Debating a Change to a Quarter System?”

  1. Subject: Letter from union to SMUHSD leaders

    This is the letter that Craig Childress, SMUHSDTA president and Hillsdale science teacher, sent to the District and board members on behalf of the association. Feel free to share it with others.

    ___________________________________________________________________

    Greetings SMUHSD leaders.

    Dr. Skelly sent me a link to this NYT (Paul Krugman) Op Ed last weekend. I had read it earlier in the week, but on a second reading a statement at the end, “Never mind the G.D.P.; the most fundamental job of any leader is to keep his people alive” struck a chord as I had also just read Dr. Scott Morrow’s rationale for the latest modification of the shelter in place order. Specifically, Morrow said, “These modifications seek to increase the immunity of the population… …and the increase in interactions among people that these modifications allow is likely to spread the virus at a higher rate.” We should not reopen school with in-person learning in the Fall.

    We all know that there is no vaccine (let alone any treatment – infected people just have to “ride it out” and hope) available, so the only route to immunity to which Morrow could be referring is a greater spread of the virus and a risky and reckless assumption that post-infection survivors of COVID-19 might have immunity to repeat infection. I say risky and reckless as there is absolutely no conclusive evidence that such immunity exists. With well over 107,000 deaths, and a case-fatality ratio of nearly 6% in the US, taking action to allow greater spread of the virus seems incongruous to promoting public health. (For perspective, most flu epidemics have had a case-fatality ratio of 0.1% and the frequently referenced 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic was 2.5%.) We should not reopen school with in-person learning in the Fall.

    What is especially concerning is that there is also currently no protocol (or ability) for smart testing/contact tracing in our county. In fact, it is my understanding that the current plan is for school districts to conduct their own tracing when cases are discovered among the school community. Unless that plan changes rapidly, when the virus spreads, we will not be prepared. We, as educators, have neither the expertise nor the facility to develop or implement such a protocol. To that end, the two largest school districts in California are demanding that comprehensive plans for smart testing and contact tracing be developed before they will consider reopening schools. We should not reopen school with in-person learning in the Fall.

    Dr. Morrow issued a follow-up statement on Monday, June 1 to clarify the May 29 order. Again, he mentions the intention to allow the virus to spread in an attempt at developing (unproven) “herd immunity” while attempting to “minimize premature death” in order to improve the economy. I urge you to read the entire statement but a few of Morrow’s key points are worth mentioning. Recent loosening of restrictions have undermined the “flattening” effects of the initial SM Co shelter in place (SIP) order. As a result, the virus is now (again) spreading at exponential rates in SM County. County Hospitalizations are on an upward trend confirming this increased virus transmission. And, even with face-coverings and physical distancing, “it is not completely safe to be out, it is even less safe to attend gatherings of any size.” We should not reopen school with in-person learning in the Fall.

    You may have read some of the articles linked above or heard these concerns before. As a leader of teachers, I share them here because our Association’s charge is to represent teachers, all of whom have the primary goal of doing what is best for our students. As you and I, as leaders of our District, consider options for the Fall, and we continually meet questions of concern with phrases like, “We will follow the SM County guidelines,” we must be very honest with ourselves and our community that these guidelines primarily seek to balance economic and political concerns. Affecting change in response to these concerns are beyond our control and not part of our mission. We are educators.

    We must also recognize that the County guidelines may not always be in the best interest of students. How can we, as representatives of an educational institution, claim to students, families, and the community that we are acting in their best interest when we invite them back into the schools by stating that, “We are following the SM Co guidelines” when those guidelines are explicitly designed to perpetuate the spread of the virus? What parent would willingly offer up their child (and, by exposure, themselves) to be a subject in this grand experiment? What parent would knowingly facilitate increased risk to their child, their family, and the community? What parent would knowingly facilitate the extension of SIP and its effect(s) on the economy? If you are inclined to mention parents who need child care (not our mission) so that they can go back to work, then consider that, by following the guidelines, we would only provide on-campus attendance (child care, if you will) for a maximum of 12 hours over a two-week period. Hardly the impact parents in that situation are seeking…

    Finally, take a close look at the actual May 29 order. The parameters and numbers we have been discussing have been opportunistically chosen in order to facilitate planning.

    The order does not simply say that we are an “Essential Business” that must remain open. Rather, Section 15. f. xiv. indicates that educational institutions are considered Essential Businesses “for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, or as allowed under subparagraph xxvi, provided that social distancing of six feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible.” Why primarily specify “distance learning” other than to clearly indicate the expected (safe) mode of instruction?

    Subparagraph xxvi (referenced above and the source of the 12 to 1 class-size ratio in our schedule discussions) addresses, among other establishments, “educational or recreational institutions or programs providing care or supervision for children of all ages.” Even from a cursory reading, it is absolutely clear that the “Blended Instruction” models that have been discussed/proposed in committee would not be allowed under this section. Specifically, subparagraph xxvi requires the following conditions for the work and practice of educational institutions.

    They must be carried out in stable groups of 12 or fewer children (“stable” means that the same 12 or fewer children are in the same group each day and for at least three consecutive weeks).

    Children shall not change from one group to another or attend more than one childcare establishment, summer camp, other educational or recreational instruction or program simultaneously.

    If more than one group of children is at one facility, each group shall be in separate rooms or spaces that cannot be accessed by children or adults outside the stable group. Groups shall not mix with each other.

    Providers, educators and other staff cannot serve more than one group of children and shall remain solely with that group of children during the duration of the childcare establishment, summer camp, other educational or recreational institution or program.

    As I have mentioned before, my concerns about returning to school center primarily on safety. Safety for the students, safety for the employees, and safety for the families of our communities. Without safety as our first priority, nothing else follows. I respect all of you and your passion and dedication to serving the students of our communities. That said, I believe that some of this group of District leaders may have adopted the fallacious argument that the “County Orders” and/or “CDC Guidelines” are the obstacles to the reopening of our schools. In reality, the pandemic is the obstacle. The pandemic is why the orders, guidelines, etc. exist. Simply stated, it is the virus, and not the District, that is in control of this process. Stating anything else sounds more like professional idealism than a representation of strong leadership.

    We, as leaders of an institution of learning, must seek the evidence-based solution that allows us to confidently claim that we will, first, do no harm. Only then can we begin to describe/promote the educational program. As Dr. Morrow says, “[t]he risk of exposure to COVID-19 looms large for all of us. The public and open businesses need to fully do their part to minimize transmission of the virus.” We should not reopen school with in-person learning in the Fall. We, as leaders, need to do everything we can that is within our control to keep our people alive.

    -Craig

    Craig Childress
    President, SMUHSD Teachers Association

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  2. I have been asked to distribute the following letter from members of the subcommittee studying the Return to School scheduling options, and, in particular to note the section at the end which I will also quote here at the beginning:

    “The pitfalls and shortcomings of the Quarter system (as detailed above) were brought up repeatedly by subcommittee members. Yet, district administrators have chosen not to include them in their planned presentation to the Board of Trustees on June 11th, despite being asked to do so by subcommittee members. We believe that our school board trustees should be presented with ALL relevant information so that they can make thoughtful, reasoned, educated decisions impacting all of the students in the SMUHSD.”

    __________

    Date: Sat, Jun 6, 2020 at 2:52 PM
    Subject: URGENT! For ALL SMUHSD Parents regarding the new school year!

    SMUHSD Parents,

    We would like to inform you that, in response to the COVID-19 crisis and San Mateo County Health Department’s directives related to Shelter-in-Place, administrators in the San Mateo Union High School District are planning on recommending a radical change to curriculum and scheduling (a new Quarter System Model) for the upcoming 2020 -2021 school year at its high schools: Aragon, Burlingame, Capuchino, Hillsdale, Mills, and San Mateo. This change will be recommended to the Board of Trustees at their next meeting, Thursday, June 11.

    However, we believe class structure should be kept similar to previous years to preserve some consistency. There is enough stress from the pandemic that we should maintain some normalcy. There are numerous pitfalls with the Quarter Model, some of which are detailed below.

    What is the Quarter System Model?

    In the quarter system, the fall semester will be broken down into two 9-week quarters. Students will take 3 classes per quarter and an entire semester’s worth of material will be taught in those 9 weeks (half the usual time). After 9 weeks the students will take a different set of 3 classes for the following quarter (Q2). This schedule may or may not continue into the spring (Q3 and Q4).

    Details of the quarter system:(https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zESrOb9cfMqVGjnMVzhmFYMS4MRU2AI5qII953IqvDA/edit#slide=id.p1)

    Sample student schedules in the quarter system:
    (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1uNrzDY_g01IbFc4Yh65pOU7QugWLOGhR153cqBvCIkg/edit#slide=id.g87dd648805_0_326)

    Issues with the Proposed Quarter Model

    No Precedent

    1. Although there are an abundance of schools that have implemented 4×4 scheduling, in our research we have only been able to find schools that do this on a semester basis (the same 4 classes are taken for 2 consecutive quarters, thus allowing students to start and finish an entire class in a semester with no breaks).
    2. We have been unable to find any documented schools that have implemented a system similar to the one being proposed: switching classes every 9 weeks. We have repeatedly asked district administrators for examples of such schools and have yet to be given a response.
    3. We strongly feel that this “quarter system” differs significantly from the standard 4×4 semester system, as switching sets of classes THREE times a year will undoubtedly exacerbate learning loss as it continually breaks the continuity of teaching.
    4. This system neither benefits our students academically nor relieves pressures of teaching for our faculty.

    Cramming material into 9 weeks:

    1. In order for students to really soak in that much material at that pace, they would need double the amount of in person instruction time, which is not the plan (in fact, in person instruction time will be cut nearly in half!). Having students in school less and using Distance Learning (DL) for a portion will not allow students to keep up with that kind of pace. Even if students have only 3 classes to focus on each quarter, requiring them to spend an inordinate amount of time on any given subject (especially math) each day is unreasonable. It’s overload and a recipe for disaster. (this concern comes straight from a teacher)
    2. Cramming is not only an issue for student learning, but also a significant problem for teachers who have to prepare the lessons. People are underestimating the amount of time it takes to create meaningful DL material. Teachers are already scrambling just to prepare for maybe the first couple of weeks of next semester. We are not sure how any teacher will be able to keep up with preparing that much new DL material at the pace which would be required to teach an accelerated 9-week quarter, while also teaching in person during the day. (this concern comes straight from a teacher)
    3. After this past semester, many students have already gotten behind in their learning. Consequently, there will be a greater necessity this fall to review last semester’s materials, which will further cause issues with cramming in new subject matter material. (this concern comes straight from a teacher)

    Learning Loss:

    1. Starting Quarter 3, students will have had an 11 week break from their first quarter courses. This will require, again, a great deal of review because retention will be a problem as the material learned in Q1 was crammed into 9 weeks. So, again, that will put teachers behind in trying to fit everything into the next quarter in order to complete the course. (this concern comes straight from a teacher)
    2. The students who don’t have a certain course for the 4th quarter will go almost the equivalent of 2 summer breaks before returning to that course. That is an absurd amount of time to ask students to remember anything. (this concern comes straight from a teacher)

    AP Testing:

    1. Not only will the 4th quarter students have less in-class time before the exam (AP exams are given the first week of May, 3 weeks before the end of the school year), but the 3rd quarter students will be preparing for their exam without any class time. (this concern comes straight from an AP teacher)
    2. Students will be preparing for ALL of their AP exams while trying to cram in new info for their other 4th quarter classes. Usually the way AP classes work is that new material stops being given at a point so that students can just spend the last couple of weeks prior to the exam practicing how to apply all of their knowledge. (this concern comes straight from an AP teacher)
    3. From the website https://www.aasa.org/schooladministratorarticle.aspx?id=14852: “The College Board has reported that students in the 4/4 schedule who take AP courses for only one semester score lower on some AP examinations than do students who are enrolled in courses for the entire academic year. The performance of students in AP classes in the 4/4 schedule also may be more a testing issue than a learning issue. Students who have completed an AP course in the fall must wait until May to take the exam”
    4. Roseville High School (which has been repeatedly cited by district administratorsas a successful example of 4×4 scheduling) is actually contemplating abandoning this model, one of the reasons being the difficulty for students to do well in AP testing (https://eyeofthetigernews.com/17870)

    Load Balancing in Student Schedules

    1. Students have already filled out their course requests earlier this school year, assuming a regular 6 or 7 period schedule. These schedules will now have to be broken into 2 groups of 3-4 classes each. How can there be a guarantee that a student will not have, say, 3 AP classes in one quarter, and 3 easier electives in the next?
    2. District administrators have suggested AP classes only be offered in Qs 1 & 3 to avoid the problem of Q4 APs (Issue (1) in “AP Testing” above). If that is implemented, how can students fit a reasonable number of APs into their schedule? Many students take more than one or two AP classes. And moving all AP classes into the same quarter will exacerbate overload problems, especially since classes are moving twice the normal speed.
    3. There will be more requests for schedule changes by students that receive courses that do not work well together under the new system.
    4. If counselors and master schedulers have to figure that out, how will they? Schedule rigor is different depending on the skills of each student (e.g. some can handle multiple rigorous STEM classes simultaneously, others cannot). This sounds like a scheduling nightmare for counselors and master schedulers that are already overwhelmed.

    IEPs, ESL and 504’s

    1. Taking students who learn with stated modifications and requiring them to learn at an accelerated rate is unfair and troublesome.
    2. This model neglects the challenges faced by our students in the ESL program and students with IEPs.

    Year-long Classes

    1. The District is recommending ALL year-long classes be moved to the optional 7th period (“extension period”or “skinny period” after lunch) – Leadership, Journalism, Yearbook, Orchestra, Choir, etc. They have also recommended some AP classes as well as some clubs (Robotics, Debate, etc.) and other activities be placed in this period. Many students take more than one of these types of classes. Under this model, to do so will be difficult if not impossible.
    2. In the quarter model, only certain groups of students come to school on certain days. Yet, for any given student, the 7th period extension period may be on a day they are not scheduled to be at school. If the class/club is not virtual, these students will have to find transportation to and from school for just one period (1:30PM – 2:50PM).

    Faculty

    1. Teachers are already tasked with re-developing their programs for remote learning only, as well as blended learning. With the quarter system, they will have the additional burden of completely modifying their lesson plans to teach the same amount of material in half the time.
    2. Due to learning loss from breaks between quarters, a period of time will be required for them to review prior coursework in order to refresh students in their studies.

    Issues with the District’s Process for Forming its Recommendation

    1. Bell Schedule Subcommittee members of the School District’s Return to School Committee were presented with several different options for a bell schedule, with the quarter option being the latest one presented. Rather than comparing the options side by side, and debating the pros and cons of each option, the quarter option was declared as the recommended option without sufficient discussion and feedback from members of the committee or the community at large, despite repeated attempts by committee members who asked relevant questions about the process and, specifically, about concerns with the quarter system.
    2. The district has not given teachers enough time or sufficient information for them to give constructive feedback or suggestions regarding this proposal or any other bell schedule option.
    3. Families in the district (with the exception of parents on this subcommittee) have not been notified or been given any opportunity to weigh in on this recommendation either. A survey went out to families on 5/26/2020 but made no mention of the quarter system or other bell schedule option.

    The pitfalls and shortcomings of the Quarter system (as detailed above) were brought up repeatedly by subcommittee members. Yet, district administrators have chosen not to include them in their planned presentation to the Board of Trustees on June 11th, despite being asked to do so by subcommittee members. We believe that our school board trustees should be presented with ALL relevant information so that they can make thoughtful, reasoned, educated decisions impacting all of the students in the SMUHSD.

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