Some parents are big fans of the idea, others have major reservations.
After Crookston High School Principal Lon Jorgenson discussed his proposal to add an eighth period to the high school's academic schedule next fall with around 25 parents in the school auditorium Monday, it was apparent that some parents are fans of the idea to add a period dedicated to PrimeTime homeroom activities and a study hall, while other parents have major reservations.
Some Crookston School Board members, once their meeting wrapped up down the hall, attended the last half of Jorgenson's meeting with the parents. It's expected that at some point soon Jorgenson's proposal will go back before the board for their consideration.
At the heart of his proposal is what Jorgenson has said is a desire among teachers and students – around three-fourths of both expressed their approval in an informal survey – to add a designated study hall to the academic schedule. Many students, whether it's because of busy athletic schedules or something else, simply aren't getting their assignments finished because they have seven separate courses throughout the school day, with little or no time during the day to get a good start on their homework, or finish it. In order to add the eighth study hall period that would be combined with PrimeTime Homeroom activities, each class period during the day would be shortened from 50 minutes to 45, and the school day would end 10 minutes later.
Jorgenson said most teachers in the building would be assigned a study hall period at some point during the day, in which they could enjoy some prep time, and that a handful of teachers not assigned a study hall could help with hallway monitoring, main entrance security or other duties in the school office.
That's all fine, some parents in attendance Monday said, but they expressed concern that some students don't need the study hall and, therefore, the period will essentially be a waste for them if they aren't able to take another class instead. Other parents are concerned that students who, for example, need help with their math won't be able to get any in their study hall if its supervised by an English teacher. Discipline-specific study halls, Jorgenson said, could raise contractual red flags with the teachers' union over additional instruction time.
He added that the study hall could provide an excellent opportunity for students who need to "recover" credits, i.e. make up for failed or incomplete classes, to catch up academically. Jorgenson also said that 55 percent of students in his survey indicated they'd be interested in taking an additional class instead of a study hall. "That's encouraging," he said, adding that the option would likely be limited to juniors and seniors. He added, however, that students who would take an extra class would miss out on PrimeTime activities, and that the menu of course offerings will not be expanding.
Jorgenson said there are no designated study hall times in the current academic schedule, but when asked if no students whatsoever get study time, he acknowledged that some students do, especially upperclassmen, when the courses they want or need to take aren't offered during certain times of the year. "We try everything in our power to get them into a class, but sometimes it's not possible so they get designated study periods," he said.
"I heard it's favoritism, too, that some kids get study halls and others don't," said parent Donna Larson.
Jorgenson disagreed with that contention, and said he'd appreciate an opportunity to discuss it further at some point.
Parents and teachers in the auditorium seemed to be the biggest fans of the possibility Jorgenson mentioned of an eight-period day potentially leading to the return of a modified block schedule to the high school, which would allow for longer class periods staggered every other day. Jorgenson didn't commit to anything, but did say that in his years as a teacher in other districts, the modified block schedule has been the most successful and the most popular.
Even if that schedule isn't implemented sometime down the road, parent Keith Mykleseth is a fan of the addition of an eighth period for designated study time. He's had kids in athletics, he said, and they've liked a chance to finish their assignments during the school day. "I don't see any real downside to this, if you can do it without any major impact," he said. "Kids like to get their homework done, and a study hall is key if that's going to happen."
If the board approves his proposal, Jorgenson said it would be done on a trial basis for one year to see how it goes. At some point toward the end of the year, he said he'd survey students and teachers again, to see how it's going. "If it's not working and there are major problems, we can certainly change it," he said.