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Block scheduling eliminated at R-P Middle School


Fri, Mar 21st, 2008
Posted in Education

RUSHFORD - Next fall, block scheduling will be a thing of the past for Rushford-Peterson middle schoolers.

The idea of changing back to seven-period days has been in the works since late last summer, and the change was finalized last Monday when the school board voted unanimously to support the plan presented by superintendent Chuck Ehler.

Block scheduling has meant fewer classes during the day, and 80-minute classes for middle schoolers. Some teachers favored the blocks, citing the extra time to work on concepts as a benefit.

But some, mostly parents, have never warmed up to block scheduling, claiming that it makes scheduling much less flexible and results in students having fewer opportunities to take a variety of classes.

According to Ehler, the new seven-period schedule has many advantages, including the addition of reading to the middle school curriculum. In addition, math and English will now be taught year round rather than just half a year, the way they were taught with block scheduling.

Students will also have the opportunity for a variety of classes including computer skills, library skills, Spanish, art, life skills, technology, and more because first hour will provide "Exploratory" courses.

Ehler says he sought staff input on the plan and acknowledges that not everyone will be 100% happy with the change, at least not at first.

The change will necessitate the addition of a computer lab at the middle school, which Ehler believes will be at least partially paid for by a technology grant.

The seven-period day also eliminates study hall for students, which is a sticking point. Ehler and principal Joel Hovland said they were confident teachers would work together to spread homework out and help "keep an eye on" the no-study hall situation.

Both Hovland and Ehler stated that while they're sensitive to time constraints in the lives of students outside of school, they believe "there's nothing wrong with homework."

The new seven-period day will begin in fall of 2008.

Brad Johnson retires

The board learned of high school principal Brad Johnson's plans to retire at the end of this academic year. Johnson has served the district as principal for eighteen years, according to Ehler.

"It is with regret that I bring this to you," said Ehler of Johnson's retirement letter. Johnson, who also served as athletic director, was "a great resource to the district-well respected by peers, staff and students," according to Ehler.

Written information in the board packet stated that Johnson will request to stay on part-time as athletic director. The board took no action on this request.

The board also acted on a request by first grade teacher Jackie Hoegh to assist her family with insurance premiums for a year if she opts for early retirement under the Rule of 90. The board went on record as saying it has and will continue to act on a case-by-case basis with such requests, and then granted Hoegh's request.

Other personnel changes included the resignation of Mike Honken as varsity wrestling coach. Honken will continue as high school social studies teacher for the district.

Leah Dessner was hired as "C" squad girls' softball coach and Lucas Rye as assistant golf coach.

Rye was also placed on unrequested leave at the end of this school year in his special education assignment at the middle school, with the understanding that if enrollment warrants it, he will be reinstated.

Near the end of the meeting the board went into closed session to discuss the purchase of the Holle property. When they returned, the chair entertained a motion that the board accept "what we just talked about" and authorize the committee of Greg Smith, Dan Munson and John Nitecki to continue with property negotiations. Motion passed.

Ehler then asked the board to approve his moving forward with enlisting the services of Chosen Valley, a geo-technical testing company, to prepare a report similar to the one prepared on the school land east of the ball fields in 2005. The board approved.

Ehler said the report will include extensive information and advice as to whether the property is a good site for a school.

Ehler and the board have scheduled an open forum to discuss the property purchase and the potential for new school funds on Thursday, March 27, 7:00 p.m. in the theater. The public is encouraged to attend.

Other business

• The board finalized the support staff contract for 2007-2009, which had been a tentative agreement since January. The two-year contract represents an overall increase of 6.22%, Ehler said.

• John Nitecki will continue as the representative to the Hiawatha Valley Education District Board.

• The next regular meeting of the board will be Monday, April 21, 6:30 p.m. in the high school biology room.

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