The Merrill Area Public Schools Board of Education tabled the discussion of modifications to the master schedule at Merrill High School last Wednesday night.
Superintendent John Sample said administration will be meeting with students and teachers, visiting other high schools and seeking parent input in preparation for bringing the issue back to the next board meeting.
“We want to slow down the process to give everybody a kick at it,” Sample said.
In a report to the board, MHS Principal Shannon Murray stated a change to the high school schedule is needed “to support a model that is more structured, eliminates course conflicts, and provides for more accurate attendance tracking and efficient student management.”
The flexible modular schedule (Flex 14) was implemented at MHS in 2009. The maintenance of that scheduling has been made more difficult with declining enrollment, budget reductions and reduced staffing levels, Murray noted. The high school enrollment has dropped by about 300 students since 2009.
Murray said, while the resulting new schedule will be much more structured than Flex 14, every effort will be made to build in some of the benefits of flex mod scheduling.
“The administration at MHS is determined to provide a scheduling model that keeps as many of the benefits found in the flex mod schedule as possible including student access to teachers, teacher collaboration time, a guaranteed and viable curriculum, and opportunities for interventions, acceleration and personalized learning built into the school schedule,” he said.
A group of current MHS juniors have met with MHS and MAPS administrators, expressing their desire to be involved in the creation of a new schedule. They spoke at last Wednesday’s school board meeting, presenting a petition signed by 440 students who wanted to keep Flex 14 or help improve it.
“People are voicing their opinion that they want to improve it, not just keep Flex 14,” said student Ben Reindl.
Nick Bauman added that underclassmen are working toward a committee to continue discussions with administration.
“We want to make sure we get as many people’s opinions on this as possible,” Bauman said.
Sample expressed a willingness to work with the students going forward.
“This is their schedule,” he said. “They are our number one group.”
Students, staff and parents were asked to provide their perceptions of the flex mod schedule in 2012-13.
Among students, 25% agreed it provides variety through the day/week; 25% agreed it grants access to teachers; 20% considered it improved the homework completed during the day and 17% thought another advantage is to be able to get the classes they want. As disadvantages students noted making up missed material (23%); staying organized (16%); class conflicts (12%) and lunch conflicts (11%).
Parents pointed out homework completed during the day (54%), access to teachers (32%) and taking more classes (28%) as the advantages the flex mod currently offers. Disavantages most pointed out by parents were lunch conflicts (63%), class conflicts (62%) and having different teachers per class (56%).
Teachers considered team teaching collaboration (61%), increased student responsibility (60%), variety through the day/week (55%) and access to teachers (52%) to be the best flex mod advantages.
Challenges pointed out were difficulty in getting to know students (60%), course conflicts (55%), attendance tracking (52%) and student resource and time management (39%).
A move back to a traditional seven-period schedule would bring with it some limitations. Students would be limited to seven classes at a time, meaning the biggest impact would be felt in the areas of school-to-career programs and elective areas, since they would have to choose between classes if they happen to meet at the same time.