McALESTER, Okla. — On Tuesday night, McAlester Public Schools administration hosted the first of two public meetings held at the Lucy Smith Student Center to discuss possible changes to the semester schedules.
MPS Curriculum Director Stephanie Holt, McAlester High School Assistant Principal and Football Coach James Singleton and MHS Principal Paula Meadows were available to answer questions about the new schedule proposal.
The proposal is to create trimester schedules instead of regular semester schedules. This would mean instead of regular eight, 45-minute class periods, there would be five, 70-minute class periods per day.
More than 50 parents attended the public meeting to have their questions and concerns answered.
“Our graduation rate is not where we want it to be,” Meadows said to begin the meeting. “It’s at 79 percent and we want our rate in the 90s and closer to 100 percent.”
Meadows said the trimester proposal is a way to increase that rate.
“Students that struggle as a freshman continue to struggle and get further behind,” Meadows said. “If they fail a core class with the new schedule they can retake a class in the same year if they need to.”
Meadows said the students will benefit by being able to fully understand the courses before moving on.
“Right now with the semester schedule we (have) a set schedule by July 1 and we are not allowed to change it,” Meadows said. “With the new schedule it will allow us the flexibility to change classes based on the students’ needs.”
Singleton said by reducing the number of classes students take it will improve the quality of the classes.
Singleton said homework grades are low because they don’t have the instructor there at home to help them, and with the extra class time they can get help before the leave the classroom.
Several parents were concerned about children that are enrolled in several sport activities and if they will still be able to get all the credits they need to graduate.
“My son was a multi-sport athlete and was even able to take college classes because of the trimester schedule,” Singleton said — referring to his experience with the trimester schedule.
Holt said the innovation will allow students to dive deeper in the curriculum.
One parent’s concern was time management.
“Will it take away from them learning time management?” the parent asked.
Holt responded by saying “No, it would not affect that.”
Jimmy Williams, a parent of an MHS student, voiced his concern about teacher workload increasing due to longer class periods and more electives being offered.
“With the Oklahoma budget shortfall I don’t want to see teachers getting more piled on them without compensation,” Williams said.
“It will lessen their workload a little bit as far as having fewer students at a time,” Meadows answered. “I don’t think it will put any extra load on our teachers.”
Meadows said the new schedule would start classes at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m., and athletics would start at 1:30 p.m. and be done by 4 p.m.
“This will allow students extra time to do more evening activities,” Holt said.
Meadows said teachers will be offered free professional development training on how to teach a 70-minute class.
Parent-teacher conferences were brought up and Meadows said teachers and parents communication continues to stay open.
Charlotte Holly was in attendance and feels that a lot of her questions were answered during the meeting but she still feels she will need to do more research to learn more about trimesters.
Holly’s daughter is a junior at MHS and Holly said she does like the idea of students having more time in class to get more help.
“I am going to need to do some research first before I say yes,” Holly said. “I do like the idea that there is longer time in class for the kids that need help.”
The MPS Board of Education is expected to reach a decision on the changes at the next board meeting on May 9.
Singleton said for more information on trimesters to visit www.trimesters.org for related information and mock schedules.
Meadows said Puterbaugh Middle School is also looking into the schedule changes as well.
Superintendent Randy Hughes said 21 percent of students don’t make it to graduation and 160 kids are failing classes.
“We have got to do something,” Hughes said. “McAlester deserves the best.”
The next public meeting is set for Thursday at 6 p.m., at MHS in the Lucy Smith Student Center.
For more information contact MHS at 918-423-4776.
Contact Lacey Sudderth at email@example.com