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New school schedule

By Staff | Dec 24, 2012

Students in the Rugby Public Schools system will be introduced to a new schedule for the 2013-14 school year.

At its Dec. 11 meeting, the Rugby School Board voted to go forward with a proposal made by Superintendent Mike McNeff to start school at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays.

The “Late Start” program will allow teacher groups to meet for 50 minutes before class and work on a variety of issues, from curriculum to student transition.

It’s meeting time that McNeff said teachers are unsuccessfully trying implement right now.

“We’re collaborating in groups right now to focus on weak areas we have and teachers are working together,” he said. “Right now, it’s such a hodgepodge of meeting times, this group is meeting for 10 minutes, this group is meeting for 20. We can never get anything truly accomplished in this kind of a setup.”

For example, McNeff said fifth and sixth grade teachers at Ely Elementary will be able to meet with junior high teachers to work on transition issues to the high school or the two second grade teachers can meet on that grade’s curriculum. At the high school, the teachers would have the ability to meet as a department and work on how to help struggling students or other assessments, according to McNeff.

“This is derived from our collaboration time that is nonexistent right now and the struggle we have to get those groups to work together,” he said. “There are a few schools in North Dakota that use this model. It’s something new. It’s innovative. It’s going to be something that’s going to be difficult to truly understand, but we know it will impact achievement, and that’s the No. 1 goal behind it.”

McNeff said that non-academic classes will be shuffled to make the impact as small as possible to the current system.

McNeff said Beulah and Northern Cass are the two schools in the state currently using the system.

He admits that logistics will be the toughest part of the program to implement.

“I know there are parents that will have to bring their kids at a specific time because they have to work,” McNeff said. “We’re going to move our non-teaching staff around so kids can be dropped off at a specific time so if they need to drop their kid at a specific time and they absolutely must be here we will have something in place.

“Bussing, we’re looking at moving back 5-10 minutes in some cases, maybe 15 in other cases. It depends on the route. Realistically, we’d like to get kids here at 8:45.”

McNeff said he is going to submit a series of articles to the Pierce County Tribune to explain the system and meet with parents to discuss potential issues and get input.

“We know it’s going to be an adjustment, but it’s something that’s aimed at improving student achievement and focusing some of the things teachers don’t have time for right now,” he said.

“We’re talking about 12 hours of time over the total year,” he said. “It’s a very minimal impact other than alleviating any issues with parents. We’ll take input at these meetings and take it from there.”

McNeff said he is not expecting every parent to immediately be on board with the change.

“I think it’s going to be great for our district,” he said. “It’s different. It’s not tradition. That’s one of the things we have to think about in our schools. We’ve been doing the same thing for 100 years with little variation. Our kids are different now. We need to look at different things and be innovative, and sometimes it attacks that tradition.

“People say, ‘this isn’t the way it was when I went to school.’ Things are different, we’re held to so many more standards than we used to be in education.”

McNeff said the groups will start with a focus on the question: What is it we want students to know and be able to do by the time we leave?

He believes the group meetings will allow teachers to focus curriculum, “to teach 10 things well instead of trying to teach 35 things briefly.”

“In the United States, we’re focused on curriculum overload,” he said. “…Right now, we need to develop a systematic approach to a lot of these things.”

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