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Scappoose High to roll out new bell schedule

Change in daily class structure will be third change in three years for high school

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Students at Scappoose High School will only take six classes at a time starting in the fall, a reduction from the current class load of eight. Staff at the school said they hope the change increases face-to-face interactions with students and teachers.Scappoose High School will change its daily schedule for the third time in three years starting in August, but school officials hope the change will add more flexibility for student learning.

The change comes after months of planning and discussion amongst teachers and staff at the high school. Superintendent Stephen Jupe gave the high school approval to implement the schedule in early March, a teacher at the high school said.

The new schedule calls for reducing daily class loads from eight to six and breaks the semester into a 15-week period solely focused on regular core classes, followed by a three-week long elective session called a “J-term,” explained Rebecca Steinke, a science teacher at the high school who spoke at the district board meeting Monday, April 18.

Classes during the 15-week period will be 60 minutes long and increase to 100 minutes in length during the three-week elective period, she said.

Steinke said many staff were displeased about switching from a trimester schedule in the 2014-15 school year to a semester schedule in the 2015-16 school year.

That switch allocated less time for students and teachers to have face-to-face interaction and seemed to overload students in younger grades who were juggling eight classes per day on a rotating schedule, Steinke said.

“The big issue was not numbers, but the inability to see core teachers every single day,” Steinke said.

A press release from the high school stated several other reasons for the change.

“Students are not getting daily instruction in their core classes and they are finding it difficult to juggle and thrive in an 8-period schedule, be they high achieving or simply struggling to earn credit,” the release stated.

“The issue with six [classes] is that it severely starts limiting options, which is why we looked to the J-term to give students more flexibility,” Steinke said, adding that staff want to offer more than a bare minimum education with no electives.

J-term classes could offer a venue to provide remediation and tutoring for students who are struggling academically or could be elective courses that encourage cooperative learning, project-based curriculum and in-depth knowledge of a subject, she said.

Students in academically advanced classes, band or choir would have alternative schedules allowing for classes to run the entire 18-week time frame.

While school board members expressed general support for the change last week, several said they were concerned about not involving parents in the conversation.

Scappoose High School Principal Jim Jones said the school has never held forums when changing schedules before.

“This is way different though,” board member Lisa Maloney said. “I just think people need to know and feel confident about it and feel informed.”

Steinke said she has had a few complaints from students who were aiming to graduate in three years, but likely would have to adhere to a four-year graduation plan under the schedule. One parent spoke out during the board meeting and said he was concerned about the lack of communication he had received from his daughter’s academic counselor regarding the changes.

While Jupe said a third schedule change for the high school in a short three-year span is “not an ideal situation,” he said it’s still important to adapt to students’ needs.

“Not only are the demands on us rightly getting more and more rigorous — like if you look at what we’re meant to do with our students now and also the level they’re meant to be at — we’ve got to do the best we can to change things so they get what they need,” Jupe


When asked how the change in credits might affect current students ability to graduate in four years with the correct amount of credits, Jupe said, “That’s an interesting question. You never really know until you’ve done it what the unforeseen [consequences are], I mean you try to foresee everything, but you can’t foresee everything.”

Jupe continued, “All I know is we will do everything in

our power to deal with individual cases and be flexible on that.”

School officials scheduled a forum April 28 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the high school auditorium to discuss the changes.