A substantial shift in the state’s education standards in 2014 will result in sweeping changes to the curriculum in classrooms across the country. The higher academic standards will also cause a sizable shift in next year’s school schedules at all levels in the Menomonee Falls School District.
District leaders are proposing a revised schedule that includes an early release every Wednesday at all schools in the system. The Menomonee Falls High School schedule already includes an early Wednesday release this year.
Ending the day 60 minutes early on a weekly basis would allow teachers to extensively track student performance through a data-driven approach, and prepare for more rigorous state performance standards.
Here’s a look at the proposed schedules for next year:
- Menomonee Falls High School: 7:50 a.m. to 3:05 p.m., 7:50 a.m. to 1:55 p.m. Wednesdays
- North Middle School: 7:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 7:15 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Wednesdays
- Elementary Schools: 8:50 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., 8:50 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. Wednesdays
- Kindergarten: 8:50-11:30 a.m. and 12:50-3:30 p.m., 8:50-10:50 a.m. and 12:15-2:15 p.m. on Wednesdays
The first day of school would fall on Sept. 3, and the last day of school would fall on June 12. Classroom time would be made up by cutting out a full day off of school in October, and trimming a few half days from the schedule.
Superintendent Patricia Greco acknowledged the schedule change would likely cause inconveniences for families – notably those families with children at the elementary level. However, she said change is necessary to best serve students and families during an unprecedented shift in education.
“This is probably the most unprecedented change I’ve seen in my entire career,” Greco said. “Imagine every work responsibility and protocol changing simultaneously where you are employed, and you have a two-year period of time for to prepare for it.”
Greco said teachers will be evaluating student progress on a 10-day cycle and the weekly early release allows teachers to crunch the data, meet as a team, track student progress, and adapt lesson plans on a continual basis. Previously, teachers monitored student progress on a quarterly basis.
Greco said teachers and administrators agreed the proposed schedule was the best option for student learning since it reduces the need for substitute teachers in the classroom. Without a block of time on Wednesdays, teachers would be pulled from classrooms for their required training and development.
“First and foremost, it’s to make sure we are setting the schedule to maximize student learning and progress. Second, to build staff development time into the schedule, and third to not go too late into June,” Greco said.
Greco said transportation, childcare, and supervised after-school study periods will be available for students to accommodate the change in schedule.
Still a Proposal
School Board member David Noshay made it clear Monday that input from parents on the proposed schedule is needed more than ever.
“You need to tell us what you think here,” Noshay said to residents watching on Falls Cable Access Monday. “When we were in discussions, 20 or so teachers told us this is the best way to educate children, but we need you to tell us. It’s important. Please give us the feedback.”
The first opportunity to weigh in on the new schedule is at the district roundtable discussion at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at the North Middle School library. The schedule will be the primary focus of the evening. The district also plans to hold several feedback sessions before the proposal goes for a potential vote of approval in January. However, the January deadline is dependent upon reaching an agreement from parents, district staff and the School Board.
Greco said administrators considered an early release every other week, or a day off once a month. They opted on the weekly early release schedule for consistency, and to track student progress in an incremental manner.
Michele Divelbiss, PTA president at Valley View Elementary School, said the district will need to effectively communicate how the proposed schedule benefits student learning.
“(Parents) aren’t crazy about it at the elementary level. They want to know what the real benefit is for the kids,” Divelbiss said. “We are going to need to see how losing that hour, and gaining those five minutes on other days, will benefit our kids.”