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Archive for Saturday, October 20, 2001

Board to study late-start schedule

Collaboration period proposed in high schools

October 20, 2001

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High school students in Lawrence could sleep late one school day each month under a proposal that sets aside time for teacher collaboration.

Principals of Lawrence and Free State high schools will present to the school board Monday their vision of a "late-start" program that forges 90-minute blocks Wednesday mornings so all teachers could be involved in staff development and professional dialogue. The monthly program would begin in 2002-2003 and would also apply to Lawrence Alternative High School.

"We have no time to get all staff together," said Joe Snyder, principal at Free State. "We ... need some time for the team to practice together."

In 1998, the district created "collaboration" time for teachers at elementary and junior high schools. Those buildings release students early every Wednesday afternoon for teacher meetings. The original idea of adding collaboration at high schools was dropped at that time.

Snyder said the need for faculty teamwork at high schools had intensified in the past few years.

But heavy student involvement in before-school and after-school activities at the high schools makes it impossible to follow the elementary-junior high model. There is no budget to pay teachers for extra time on the clock in the summer, weekends or evenings, Snyder said.

Carving time out of the school day seven to nine times each academic year is the best solution, he said.

LHS Principal Dick Patterson said the Lawrence district also was feeling heat from state and national accreditation panels that expect high schools to have every teacher involved in school-wide improvement meetings.

Complex needs

He said the complexity of student needs resulting from larger special education student enrollment and a state law mandating students remain in high school until age 18 instead of 16 contributed to his desire for collaboration time.

"It's real important we have effective planning," Patterson said.

High school teachers could use monthly gatherings for instructional strategy discussions, cross-curricular projects, technology training, conferences on special-education or at-risk students and professional dialogue.

Details of the late-arrival proposal:

School bus routes would run as normal, and high school buildings would open at normal times. Students would be allowed to congregate in computer labs, libraries and commons areas.

To meet state requirements, each school day would be extended up to seven minutes and one student study seminar will be eliminated each month.

Committees at each school would be responsible for setting collaboration meeting agendas.

Faculty would evaluate the effectiveness of the modified schedule each year.

Supt. Randy Weseman said the board could endorse the late-start proposal, seek modifications or shelve the concept.

Board Vice President Scott Morgan said the board might want to look first at streamlining demands placed on teachers rather than adopt the late-start concept.

"There may be other solutions," Morgan said.

'Modest' faculty interest

Lawrence Education Assn., which represents the district's 900 teachers in contract talks, surveyed its members this year about collaboration time in the district. There was consensus that it was implemented unevenly throughout the district's schools.

Free State teacher Al Gyles, LEA's chief negotiator, said there was modest interest among teachers in launching collaboration at the high schools. He feels high school teachers have enough time with peers during two 30-minute seminars each week.

"It's our feeling that we do not need it," he said.

At one point, the high school principals wanted the late-start schedule to begin this academic year.

"That would have been too rushed for people," Weseman said.

Indeed, public reaction might have resembled outcry that accompanied the school board's decision to start collaboration time at elementary and junior high schools.

Collaboration time was written into the 1998-1999 teacher contract and was not presented by the district to parents prior to the board's vote on the contract.

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