Superintendent recommends six-period schedule for Liberty High School
December 4, 2012
By Lillian O'Rorke
Superintendent Steve Rasmussen recommends Liberty High School switch to a six-period schedule.
During the 1990s, many schools across the nation began using an eight-period block schedule where students take four 90-minute classes each day. And in the fall of 1995, Liberty became one of those schools.
Seventeen years later, that could change. In order to establish a common, districtwide high school schedule, and to give Liberty students more time to study core subjects, the Issaquah School District is considering changing Liberty’s timetable.
Rasmussen made his recommendation to the Issaquah School Board during a work study session Nov. 28. The main reason, he said, is because the current block schedule gives Liberty students 127 hours per class each year, where Issaquah High School has 161 hours and Skyline High School has 165.
“What I am saying is: I don’t want lower standards for a group of our students. I don’t want them to be short-changed,” Rasmussen said.
“The reality of the education world is changing,” he added, listing new teacher and principal evaluation models and common core assessments as examples of the new challenges. “If we are moving forward, then we’ve got to consider a change.”
Several weeks before announcing his recommendation, the Liberty Schedule Committee urged the superintendent to consider a seven-period school day. The committee, put together by the school district, spent two months looking at test scores, gathering input from the community and researching schedule options, before voting unanimously Oct. 30 for a seven-day schedule.
A final report was sent to Rasmussen Nov. 6, and in it the committee stated several reasons for its decision, including that the change would increase Liberty’s student-teacher contact time by 24 hours per class while still allowing enough room for extra opportunities, like electives and support classes for struggling students.
A similar committee was formed last year, but with representatives from all three comprehensive high schools. Ultimately, the committee said it could not come up with a common schedule recommendation.
“I’m struggling with the idea of not feeling like I wasted a great deal of my time being on the committee,” Wright Noel said at the Nov. 28 school board meeting. The Liberty parent sat on the Liberty Schedule Committee and helped draft its final decision. “We are saying that we value those electives … where we develop our personal awareness of our gifts and strengths, you can’t measure that.”
While a seven-period day would give students the desired minimum of 150 hours of class time, Rasmussen said its price tag of $880,000 is beyond the district’s reach. His six-period recommendation would not call for additional staff and would give students 160 hours per class per year.
“Is $880,000 — in a $170 million budget — unattainable?” board President Brian Deagle asked.
The superintendent answered that if he did have that money to spend, he would spend it elsewhere.
Rasmussen also included recommendations to provide more electives, which has been a major point of contention. One idea is a pilot program next year that would provide Metro Transit-style bussing for seventh-period electives at all three comprehensive high schools. The extra busses would cost an estimated $150,000 a year.
It is now up to the school board to decide whether to approve Rasmussen’s six-period recommendation or leave things the way they are. The board is set to make that vote during its Dec. 12 meeting.