Issaquah School Board preserves Liberty High School’s block schedule
December 12, 2012
By Lillian O'Rorke
NEW — 10:40 p.m. Dec. 12, 2012
A celebratory cry gushed from the audience Wednesday night as the Issaquah School Board voted 4-1 to preserve the eight-period block schedule at Liberty High School.
“The data to support a six-period day has always seemed to me to be weak,” board member Chad Magendanz said. “At this point, I think it is premature to make a change without a compelling case driving it.”
Since 1995, Liberty has used an eight-period block schedule where students take four 90-minute classes each day. Many in the school’s community like that eight periods give students more chances to explore electives. This, supporters of the block schedule say, cultivates creativity, innovation and a commitment to learning.
“I think we have something at Liberty, that is evidenced by the groundswell of feedback from the community, that says this is very valuable to us,” board President Brian Deagle said. “I don’t know how to measure it. We haven’t been measuring it, yet it’s been proposed that we get rid of it.”
However, Liberty’s schedule does have some drawbacks. Primarily, the existing block schedule gives students 127 hours per class each year, where Issaquah High School has 161 hours and Skyline High School has 165 hours. The subject has been a hot topic of debate for the last several months.
Concerned that Liberty student’s are not getting enough time to study core subjects, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen recommended Nov. 28 that the school switch to a six-period schedule, which is what Issaquah and Skyline use.
Anne Moore shares those concerns and was the only board member who voted in support of the change to a six-period day.
“It is a challenge because I understand that parents and kids love it (the block schedule), but what are they missing?” she said. “I think the key comes back to some of the teachers, that did talk about not being able to get through all the material in a given amount of time.”
But others on the board wondered if chucking the eight-period day was the only way to raise test scores.
“It seems like the only variable that was ever considered was changing the schedule…rather than looking at what are some other things that we can do,” board member Marnie Maraldo said. “Is the only solution changing the schedule or is there a way to address some of these issues and stay in that eight-period schedule.”
Many of the board’s comments were also made by the Issaquah School District administration’s staff, Rasmussen said.
“It wasn’t one-sided,” he said. “This has been a valuable conversation, it’s been tough at times. So let’s move on.”