The staff at Winona Senior High School is so passionate about their four-period schedule that not only did they turn out for the Curriculum Committee listening session on the matter, they have scheduled their own forum on the topic.
Wednesday night a subcommittee of the district's Curriculum Committee heard loud and clear from speakers, many of them teachers and students, that they prefer the four-period day and believe it works well at the high school.
Proponents of the schedule, which divides the school year into four classes per day that are nine weeks in length each, say it gives teachers more quality time with students and gives students more classes to choose from throughout the year.
On average each class period is 85 minutes long compared to the 55-minute classes of the high school's former six-period day schedule.
Critics of the four-period day say classes that should be sequential are sometimes offered many months apart, that things like band or choir should not be 25% of a student's day and that limitations of the schedule make scheduling difficult for some students.
The District 861 School Board has also noted that when the district switched to a four-period day in 1994, it did not make provisions to ensure that teaching time at the high school complies with the master contract.
Other district teachers must have 300 minutes of classroom time with less than one hour of preparation time per day according to the contract. Teachers at the high school, however, have been getting one full period, or 25% of the instructional day for prep time, with classroom contact time short of the contract by around 45 minutes per day.
At the forum sponsored by the Winona Education Association, which is the teachers union, organizers say a panel of high school teachers will be on hand to give a presentation about their experience with the four-period day.
The press release issued by the WEA says educators will not only discuss the origin of the four-period schedule and its intent, but also the strengths and weaknesses teachers see in the system.
That forum is scheduled for Thursday, January 26, at 5 p.m. in the upper media center at the high school.v
The district's Curriculum Committee is currently evaluating the existing four-period day for its practicality and effectiveness at the senior high before making recommendations to the board regarding the high school schedule.
Other options that might be considered include a five or six-period day or a four-period day modified to devote less time to non-core subjects.
The school board is slated to hear the committee's recommendation at the February 16 board meeting.