Small Town News
School district considers common schedules for high schools
Local school officials may be moving toward establishing a common schedule for at least three of the district's four high schools.
Among other factors, the move would allow the schools to tale better advantage of their resources and pool certain professional development activities, according to district Superintendent Steve Rasmussen.
"We believe not being on a common schedule is hurting us," said Patrick Murphy, district executive director of secondary education.
Murphy and Rasmussen made their comments during a specially scheduled, daylong meeting of the Issaquah School Board held Aug. 3.
Even as he contended unifying the schedules would allow the district to take advantage of some practicalities, Murphy also told the board any discussion of common high school schedules likely would lead to a wide-ranging -- and hopefully beneficial -- discussion of educational efforts at those schools.
As just one example of how differing schedules at the high schools hurt the district, Murphy mentioned how the schools wanted to share a language teacher. Officials were unable to do so because of scheduling problems.
In broader terms, Murphy said unifying the operations of the high schools could have some profound effects. Currently, Liberty High School offers move electives than the other secondary schools.
But Issaquah and Skyline high school students receive more instructional hours per class than their counterparts at Liberty. Liberty students average 63 hours of instruction time for each course, while that same figure is roughly 80 at both Issaquah and Skyline, Murphy said. Those numbers could change drastically with a unified schedule in place, he added.
To study the idea of unified schedules, Murphy proposed formation of a 20- to 25-member committee consisting of the principals from each high school, along with teachers, parents and student representatives. He already had a long list of issues the group could study.
Murphy said officials need to learn what type of instructional time is the most beneficial to students. Is there an optimal amount of instructional time, or should it vary by discipline or possibly by time of year? How do schools promote contact between students and teachers outside normal classroom time?
In answering questions from school board member Suzanne Weaver, Murphy said the group would need to look at best practices from each school as well as consider new educational techniques. Answering other board questions, Murphy said there probably is no one perfect schedule for the high schools.
While Murphy talked a lot about unifying high school schedules, he said he didn't want to give the impression such a change is a foregone conclusion. While he predicted that a unified schedule would emerge, he left open the possibility that the committee will find such a schedule is a bad idea. Officials also need to decide how much to include Tiger Mountain Community High School, the district's alternative high school, in the mix.
For the most part, school board members came out neither for or against the idea of unifying high school schedules. Board member Jan Woldseth Colbrese said she hopes the committee will consist of teachers from various disciplines.
No specific timetable was set for the formation of the committee, though Murphy said he hopes to have some recommendations ready for the board by the end of the calendar year. A progress report might be before board members next month.
In an email sent to teachers and parents at the end of the last school year, Rasmussen said he first publicly broached the idea of unifying high school schedules. He received only three responses, none of them negative. Still, the issue is a hot topic, he said.
"People are concerned about schedules," he said. "You mention that and you have their attention."
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