Pierz school officials contemplate a class schedule change

By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent

Administration and staff at Pierz Healy High School are contemplating a class schedule reconfiguration for 2014-2015. In a way, it’s a return to the past when classes were all the same length.

“I am recommending that we consider changing our current block- and six-period-day model to an eight-period day model,” Supt. George Weber told the Board at its Jan. 29 meeting. “This model would have eight different periods, each 47 minutes long. It would require us to lengthen the school day at the high school by abut 20 minutes, putting some of it at the beginning of the day and some at the end of the day.”

If implemented, the new format would require English, math, social and science to be yearlong classes in grades 7-10. The present schedule doesn’t allow a full year of the core subjects. Six classes would be taught in a typical day with one period for preparation and one period reserved for professional development programs.

The new configuration would give high school teachers not only more prep time during the week, but also give them time to schedule things like peer-to-peer coaching and department professional learning without pulling teachers from the classroom, Weber said.

All teachers must participate in the teacher review program within the next three years. Ramp Up For Readiness career instruction is another focus of state educators.

“I feel it is a better schedule for students,” said Weber. “It may be challenging to take eight classes instead of six classes. We may have to add some study halls. More often than not, doing homework at school proves more effective than doing it afterward.”

The proposed change shouldn’t affect the elementary school significantly, except to rearrange the sequence in which students are dropped off. Bussing details need to be worked out, yet. Although a projected 20 minutes may be added to the school day, not all is instructional. More classes also mean more passage time between rooms.

First order of business at the first meeting of the new year entailed election of officers. Joanne Broschofsky passed the symbolic gavel to Patty Stangl who then took over the meeting. Dean Virnig was elected vice chair and Steve Boser continues in the clerk position. Named directors were Broschofsky, Mike Wilson and Colleen Seelen.
Pierz School Board Briefs

In other routine business items, the Pierz School Board:

•    Appointed directors to assignments that included Patty Stangl as hearing official for free/reduced meal applications and as the district’s representative on the Mid-State Cooperative, Dean Virnig, Community Education advisory committee, Mike Wilson, legislative liaison for the MN State School Boards Association and Colleen Seelen and Joanne Broschofsky, personnel committee.

•    Noted that a make-up day due to this winter’s inclement weather hasn’t been set, yet. Pierz has had a couple of late starts that don’t have to be made up. To date, school was closed for two days, one of which has to be made up, possibly the end of March.

•    Was informed that for the first time in recent years, the gas company shut off the main gas furnace at the school prompting the need to use the school’s interruptible fuel oil source. Fortunately, it happened over the holiday break when nobody was in the buildings because one of the boilers wasn’t working correctly.

•    Reviewed architectural drawings showing some of the options being considered for facility improvements. On the drawing board are a new 5,000-square foot kindergarten addition at the elementary school, a high school band room, fitness center improvements and a field house. The current band room would be repurposed for the choir. The proposed 30,150 square foot field house would be located on the site of the original tennis courts. RAMorton is in the process of providing cost estimates. “Once we get that information, we can discuss any thoughts of taking action on certain projects and when we might want to proceed with any of them,” Weber said.

•    Continues to research the probability of an excess levy referendum this November since the 2004 voter approved operating levy matures this year. “I will recommend to you a plan that will actually lower the total taxes in 2015 compared to 2014, even if the voters vote yes to renew the current levy,” Supt. Weber told the Board. “But there are changes made at the state level regarding how different levies are spread out and changes based upon the difference between our expiring bond levy and the board levy that make it a little complicated.” Ehlers and Associates is putting together pertinent tax impact information.

The next meeting of the Pierz School Board is set for Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in the high school board room.