Students in the North Kansas City School District will be spending more time in school next year.
By JILL SEDERSTROM
Special to The Star
The district’s Board of Education voted last week to add additional time to the school day for elementary, middle and high school students in an effort to increase instructional time and be more in-line with other area districts. Under the new schedule, high school students will have an additional 12 minutes of school each day and the middle and elementary students will spend an additional 10 minutes in class. The district has yet to decide how these additional minutes will change the start and end times of each school day.
While students will have slightly longer days next year, elementary students will spend less time in school one day a week as the board also approved a 35-minute early release on Thursdays to allow for more professional development time for elementary teachers. Middle and high schools have already adopted an early release schedule on Thursdays.
Finally, the board voted to adopt a new class schedule for ninth grade students that would be a hybrid of traditional and block scheduling. The rest of the high school students would remain in their current block scheduling.
The scheduling changes were the result of work done by a special committee charged with examining the district's use of time in terms of student learning. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and administrators, used the district’s strategic plan, Missouri state standards, and Board of Education goals to help guide their decision-making as they evaluated the district’s current schedule.
Daniel Clemens, assistant superintendent of administrative services, said the committee’s primary concern was finding the best way to meet the needs of students.
“The committee started feeling the notion that we need to start seeing kids more often,” he said.
To find the best way to meet student needs, Mike Jeffers, deputy director of secondary education, said the committee looked at four parameters when making their recommendations: increasing student performance, adding more instruction time, seeing students more frequently and accommodating students’ alternate needs.
The committee decided to recommend the longer school day after looking at how the district’s current schedule compared with those of other area districts. According to Amy St. John, director of data management for the district, currently Park Hill, Liberty and Springfield all spend more time each day in class than North Kansas high school students do, while at the middle and elementary level, Liberty, Park Hill and Rockwood all have longer school days.
In addition to adding more time to each school day, the committee also recommended revising the class structure for ninth grade students for the 2013-2014 school year. Under the new plan, ninth grade students will take a total of seven classes each semester. They will meet every day for their core math, science and English language arts classes, while the remaining four classes will meet alternatively as part of a block schedule. District staff say this hybrid model of traditional and block scheduling will allow ninth grade students to gain an additional 45 hours of instruction during the year in the core areas of math, science and English language arts.
Dan Wartick, principal of North Kansas City High School, said the adoption of what the district is calling a house concept will ease the transition into high school for students and will also allow them to develop stronger relationships with their core teachers.
Under the new plan, ninth grade students will be the only high school students to move to the house concept. They will earn seven credits for the year, while the rest of the high school students will remain on the district’s eight-credit block structure. The district plans to study how the new schedule works for those in ninth grade before deciding whether the schedule would work for any other grade levels.
Board member Dixie Youngers said she’d be concerned how district programs such as the Gold Medallion program would be affected if the schedule were adopted for all high school grade levels.
After the presentation, board members voted to adopt all three committee recommendations that were presented last week. Board member Terry Ward said he hoped the additional instructional time would help improve overall student performance within the district.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that more contact time has got to help,” he said.