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September 25, 2013

Schools to decide on flexible high school schedules

Start times may change

By Sherri Kolade
C & G Staff Writer

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — After six years of trimester schedules for Farmington Public Schools high school students, the Board of Education is entertaining the possibility of having flexible or varied schedules.

Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Catherine Cost spoke before the board Sept. 18 about a High School Structure Committee, which would make high school scheduling recommendations to the board during an October 2013-April 2014 timeframe. 

“What I envision with this committee is we thoughtfully do work between October, present to you our recommendations in April, and then you would have the chance to make a decision,” Cost said before the board.

Cost said the trustees plan to vote for approval for the committee during an Oct. 8 Board of Education study session.

The High School Structure Committee would be formed in accordance with board procedure, which gives guidelines for how the committee is to be selected. The committee would find out from the community what is valued most in high school, such as electives choices, student-teacher relationships and more.

They also will be charged with considering the impact of high school scheduling on class size, and identifying the state of trimester structure using data to determine its strengths and challenges, among other duties.

“We know that each schedule has strengths as well as challenges,” Cost said. “After studying all of that, we will ask the committee to make a recommendation. And that recommendation, we want to align with community values.”

She said that from May 2014 to May 2015, the committee would start working on a curriculum to help students understand what impact potential scheduling changes would have on graduation requirements, among other things.

The committee’s official plan would be presented to the board April 2014.

During mid-October, a committee application process would be underway, and committee members should be selected before the end of October.

Committee applications won’t be available on the district’s website until Oct. 9, Cost said.

In 2012, the administration and Board of Education asked that an evaluation be done of the current trimester model, Cost said. 

The process was not intended to recommend alternative scheduling models, according to a district document.

The district converted to trimesters, which divide the school year into three 12-week sections, in 2007 because it was thought that the trimester model would save money.

Cost said after the meeting that currently, the trimester model is a five-class schedule from 7:45 a.m.-2:45 p.m.

One example of another schedule could include students taking six classes, also within a 7:45 a.m.-2:45 p.m. timeframe. Another recommendation could include students starting the school day at 10 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m.

“Maybe that could fit under (a) flexible schedule,” she said.

Working with Lindson Feun — Oakland Schools research, evaluation and  assessment consultant — and Kristine Gullen — Oakland Schools high school consultant — they developed and executed an evaluation plan that examined data on the trimester scheduling. 

This included a review of demographic data, enrollment data, achievement data and student, staff and parent perception data.

One of their recommendations included the exploration of other schedules. The board proposal includes a charge and the scope of work to complete that task.

The committee, made up of 30-40 people, including administrators, teachers, parents, students and the like, would pick up where the original plan left off, Cost said.

“That information from committee is going to be the springboard for this new committee,” Cost said. 

Trustee Karen Bolson said she would like to know more about start times in the equation.

“This might be an appropriate time to take a fresh look at that issue,” she said. “I know we tried to do that before I was a school board member. At the time, it wasn’t doable. Maybe that would be appropriate right now.”

Cost said she plans to add a start time component to the committee’s responsibilities.

Superintendent Susan Zurvalec said parents are interested in this concept, and the district is, too.

“We certainly are delighted that we are going to be able to take a look at this in a comprehensive fashion,” Zurvalec said.

For more information, go to http://www.farmington.k12.mi.us/ or email Cost at catherine.cost@farmington.k12.mi.us.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sherri Kolade at skolade@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.