Whittell considers four-day weeks | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell considers four-day weeks

Sara Thompson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jim Grant / Tahoe Tribune file photo

George Whittell High School might switch to a four-day week school schedule.

“I’m saying it’s a possibility; I’m saying we’re investigating this and it can’t work without community support,” Principal Sue Shannon said. “If it’s not going to work for families, we won’t do it.”

Two meetings were held Wednesday to gather community opinion on the proposal. About 15 people attended the morning meeting and about 24 people showed up to an evening session.

Students would go to school Mondays through Thursdays, which would lengthen each day by 72 minutes. The number of days in the school year would drop from 178 to 144, Shannon said.

The new schedule could be advantageous because of the large number of students who participate in school sports.

About 79 percent of high school students are in one sport, Shannon said, and a student misses 35 class periods per year, on average, for extracurricular activities. Many of the missed periods are because of sports activities on Fridays. With this new schedule, a student would only miss seven periods on average.

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“From the students’ point of view, we’re all really down with it,” said Nick Warner, 2009-10 student body president.

Warner said most students at Whittell are athletes, and he thinks the schedule will help students keep up with their classes.

Whittell teacher Catherine Cook said that at certain times during the sports season she only has one student in her sixth-period class on Fridays.

“It’s an ongoing problem and it’s time we dealt with it,” Cook said.

Cook said she’d much rather have longer class periods with students there, than to repeat lessons on Mondays for all the students who missed class because of sports.

The biggest concern among students and parents is that the new schedule may increase the amount of homework students would receive, Shannon said. That variable can be controlled by the staff, she added.

The high school department chairs would meet to equalize the homework load, so students wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Cook said the additional class time would also decrease homework because there would be more interaction with the teacher and the students.

“I’d much rather assign homework twice a week that’s effective, rather than say ‘Here, do this,’ because I can,” Cook said.

Next school year most of the games are scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays. Those sports include cross country, track, football, basketball, soccer and volleyball, Shannon said. The games that wouldn’t be on Fridays or Saturdays would be a short driving distance away, such as South Tahoe High School.

The four-day schedule works well for small schools that have students who have to travel long distances to play sports opponents, Shannon said.

The schools in Whittell’s league are also considering a four-day school week. Pershing County School District already approved a four-day week, and Lander County School District will decide next week, Shannon said.

The only sports that will be difficult to schedule strictly on Fridays and Saturdays would be golf, skiing and playoffs, Shannon added.

The seventh- and eighth-grade sports schedules will not change because most of their games are within short driving distances. They will miss some sixth-period classes, but Shannon said the school would schedule physical education or technology classes during that time. She said no core classes, such as math, science or English, would be offered that period.

Some parents were concerned about how the schedule switch would affect their children academically. Studies on the four-day week show that the schedule doesn’t affect the students negatively or positively, Shannon said.

Cook said the schedule could possibly be better for students regardless of whether they’re athletes or not, because there would be more continuity with classes.

Parents also wanted to know what would happen to the seventh- and eighth-graders, along with the non-athletes on Fridays.

Shannon said Fridays would become an enrichment day for students.

Parent Kelly Krolicki said she’s investigating programs for students on Fridays.

“I look at this as an opportunity to start bringing enrichment programs back to schools,” Krolicki said.

Teachers are constrained to meet state and federal requirements, so they don’t have enough time to incorporate other things into their curriculum, Krolicki said. Fridays could solve that problem. Many organizations offer free programs, such as Sierra Nevada Journeys and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.

Some of the high school students would like to have SAT prep classes on Fridays, along with scholarship workshops and help with their college applications, Krolicki said.

“The high-schoolers want different things than the seventh- and eighth- graders,” Krolicki said.

If the community supports the idea, Shannon would present the four-day week schedule to the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees on April 14. The board would hear the presentation but take no action at that time, she added.