Earlier in, later out at 2 Oro Valley high schools - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Earlier in, later out at 2 Oro Valley high schools

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Posted: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:11 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

School starts earlier and gets out later this year at Ironwood Ridge and Canyon Del Oro high schools.

At Ironwood Ridge, the school day now begins at 8:15 a.m., from 8:30 a.m. last year. The school day ends at 3:31 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 3:05 p.m. last year.

CDO is beginning classes at 8 a.m., from 8:50 a.m. last year. The last class of the day ends at 3:20 p.m., from 3:10 p.m. last year.

"We didn't just get together as an administration and decide to rewrite the schedule for no reason," said IRHS Assistant Principal Mike Szolowicz. "We were told we need 180 hours of instructional time in 178 days, so we said 'well, OK,' and transformed the directive into something that would be best for the school community."

Patrick Nelson, Amphitheater School District associate superintendent, said the schedule is affected because new state requirements call for students to have four years of math, among other subjects.

At Ironwood Ridge, lunch periods have been shortened from 46 to 39 minutes, and monthly half days used for teacher meetings have been canceled. At CDO, lunch periods have been reduced from 50 to 40 minutes.

Conference periods, an hour on Tuesdays and Wednesdays set aside for students to receive extra help from teachers before class, are intact but limited. The early-out days have been transformed to "late-in" days, when teachers will use roughly one conference period every other week as teacher collaboration time.

In order to cope with the mandate, Amphitheater High School did away with conference periods. "We could've done something like that," said Szolowicz, "but block days are too important to academics and athletics. The school day is a little longer, that was unavoidable."

Schedule changes pose some conflicts for student-athletes. "One of the real downsides is that student-athletes will miss more of their last class period if meets and games are scheduled at 4 p.m.," Szolowicz said. "They'll have to leave early to get there on time."

The school didn't have the option to begin class earlier and get out earlier. "Another parameter is transportation," said Szolowicz, adding 8:15 "is the earliest we can start to get the buses here on time."

In addition to substantive schedule changes, technical changes have been made as well at Ironwood Ridge. "Zero hour," a class period usually offered to squeeze in extra elective courses such as band or athletic training, has been renamed Period 1. Thus, when most students receive their class schedule, their first class of the day will begin on Period 2.

This change is a result of a new student information system, which organizes schedules and other data. The new student information system, TEMS, does not recognize a Zero Hour.

At CDO, "the schedule is essentially the same," said Principal Marcia Volpe. "The difference is that class periods are longer." All class periods Tuesday through Friday are 130 minutes.

Like Ironwood and Amphi, CDO will have some complications in rearranging the schedule.

"It will be more difficult for the athletes that have to leave early," Volpe said.

CDO has also canceled its tutorial periods, equivalent to Ironwood's conference periods but offered at the end of the day instead of the beginning. The tutorial periods were originally scheduled on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but the time is now spread into the longer class periods.

School officials are making sure these changes won't affect student opportunities. "We need to make some adjustments in the schedule, to make sure we're offering the ability to offer all our electives," Nelson said.

How will these changes affect students and teachers? "Students are going to school longer, block classes are longer, and with more time in each class, students and teachers will have to adjust," said Ironwood Ridge's Szolowicz.

"In our teacher collaboration meetings we'll ask things like, 'how are you using the extra time?' The key is to break up the periods into different types of activities. Adding 15 minutes onto classes is enough time to do a whole other activity."

CDO's Volpe described it as "chunking."

"Our faculty is well trained in teaching in a block schedule," she said. "It's all about transitions, and making sure the students won't have to sit through a university-style lecture."

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