The Merrill Area Public Schools Board of Education approved a new master schedule for Merrill High School Wednesday night. The new schedule, which will go into effect this fall, includes seven class periods and an enrichment period. It will replace the Flex 14 schedule in place at the high school since 2009.
The 40-minute flexible enrichment period helps retain the advantages of the flex mod schedule, said MHS principal Shannon Murray.
“It helps keep what students value about the flex mod schedule, having some variety in their day,” Murray said.
The flex period would be dedicated to interventions, acceleration and personalized learning.
The school will also implement a tiered study hall system. Freshmen will have their own study halls in the library. Upperclassmen who are stuggling academically will have a more structured study hall, while those doing well in their classes will be in a less restrictive environment.
The new schedule as approved is the same as the proposal that the board tabled last month.
“The board wanted to table it and get more input, and I think that’s the right thing to do,” Murray said.
Since that board meeting, administrators have met with students and parents to gather their input. Students were also invited to accompany administrators in making site visits to other school districts. They visited D.C. Everest and Medford, both of which use a schedule very similar to what Merrill will start this fall.
Students will be limited to taking seven classes at a time, but no classes or opportunities will been eliminated because of the schedule change, Murray said. The only limitations will be that students can only take seven classes at a time.
School-to-work programs at the high school will continue, as they did before Flex 14 was implemented.
“We didn’t have those things because we had flex mod scheduling,” Murray said. “There are over 500 school districts in Wisconsin that have school-to-work programs that don’t have flex mod scheduling.”
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.
“Flex mod has lost its flexibility,” he said. “As the student population has gone down, so has the population of staff. Students don’t have the access to teachers that they did eight years ago.”
Also, with the decline in staff, attendance management has become a problem with the Flex 14 scheduling.
Murray expects next year’s seniors will have the most difficulty adjusting to a new schedule, having only known Flex 14. He added that staff is working with those students to make sure they get what they need out of their last year of high school.
Although the new schedule did not change from last month’s proposal, MAPS Superintendent John Sample said he’s glad the board took an extra month so the plan could be more fully explained to students and parents.
“It allowed us time to involve parents and students even more,” Sample said. “One of the most important things, it allowed us to receive parent input.”
Reaction to the new schedule was “extremely positive” among students and parents, Sample said.
“In fact, students that originally stepped forward not wanting to change turned out to be the biggest advocates for the change,” Sample said.
At the February board meetings, a group of current MHS juniors presented a petition signed by 440 students who wanted to keep Flex 14 or help improve it. They expressed their desire to be involved in the creation of a new schedule.
Those same students returned to Wednesday night’s meeting to advocate for the new schedule. They presented along with Murray in explaining the new scheduling.
“They told the board how much they appreciate the change and how they are looking forward to it,” Sample said.
Sample added that he was proud of the way the students represented Merrill High School when they visited the other districts. They were not only able to see the schedules, but talk with students and teachers in those districts about the schedules.