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New schedule could ease Friday at Ashland High

ASHLAND ' A proposed change to a controversial class schedule in January could end what frustrated high school teachers and students refer to as frantic Friday.

Born out of budget cuts, the current Ashland High School class schedule features block scheduling Monday through Thursday, then crams every period into Friday in an attempt to do more with fewer resources.

On Fridays, you don't really do anything. It's just a waste of time, said freshman Caitlin Kirby.

The current schedule has students taking four of their classes on Monday and Wednesday ' referred to as odd days ' and three on Tuesday and Thursday ' referred to as even days. Each class is 92 minutes long.

On Fridays, students take all seven of their classes during 44-minute periods.

Last year, students attended eight classes over two days.

Teachers and Principal Jeff Schlecht agree the scaled-back schedule, the result of &

36;3 million in reductions and the loss of 10 percent of the school's teaching staff, could end up hurting students academically.

It's frustrating for everybody, said Schlecht. Watching the dismantling of a great school district tears my heart out.

Teachers complain the schedule gives them less time to prepare for class, less time to give students individual attention, even less time to discuss how to resolve the problem.

We're so frantic that we don't have any time to meet, said Leeanne Wallace, president of the Ashland teachers' union and an English teacher.

Schlecht is working on a plan that would put the entire week on a block schedule that would alternate between odd and even days.

He plans to have a preview of the new schedule on Friday, Nov. 8, to get reaction from students and teachers before it takes effect on Jan. 6.

Ashland parent Steve Fain said he doesn't like the current schedule and neither do many other parents. It doesn't work well with our family schedule, he said.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, school starts at 8 a.m.; on Fridays, it starts at 8:45 a.m.

But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, school starts at 9 a.m. Fain and his wife have to be at work by 8 a.m., which means they can't make sure their two sons get to school on time.

They've had a much higher increase in late days, Fain said of his sons. There has been some detention for getting to school late, which they didn't have last year.

Freshman Greg Cross generally doesn't mind the schedule, apart from Fridays, when he finds it difficult getting from building to building in time for his next period. It's a bit rushed, especially the passing time between classes, he said.

Wallace said teachers are frustrated with the schedule because they have 21 percent less preparation time during a given week than last year and consequently spend less time individually with students.

Wallace said teachers have 165 to 180 student contacts, but the district calculates only 145 to 155 because it doesn't count students in a homeroom period.

District officials, she said, haven't told the union why it doesn't calculate the full student load. We don't get it, said Wallace. They circle the issue.

The teachers' union has filed a grievance with the district over some of these issues but tabled it to allow time for the administration to come up with a new schedule.

Wallace said the district wants to maintain the minimum 990 hours of class time required by the state for students in high school, but wonders if that's fair.

We're trying to meet the demands of the state, she said. On the one hand, they want us to maintain 990 hours. On the other hand, they're not paying us for it.

Wallace said teachers are worried that despite their best intentions, assessment scores ' some of the highest in Jackson County ' could slip, and so could grades.

I have noticed several students who have left my classroom already, which is a worrisome sign, said Wallace.

Schlecht, responding to Wallace's concern about student load, said that as part of the proposed schedule, teachers would only have a home room period every other week, instead of twice a week.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail