School board unanimously approves schedule change at Jenkins Middle

Jenkins Middle School administrators hope an earlier start to the school day and a change in schedules will lead to student improvements in the new year. 

“Being a school that struggles, we need to look at every advantage we possibly can to put the kids and the teachers in the best position, so that they can be successful,” principal Randy Hedstrom. 

Hedstrom got unanimous approval from the Putnam County School District board Tuesday to start school 15 minutes earlier to accommodate a seven-period daily schedule beginning Jan. 9, but Hedstrom said the new schedule was not yet set as he spends the days leading up to Jan. 9 gathering more input from teachers and parents. 

With a seven-period daily schedule, students would attend each of their classes daily, including those that lead to state standardized testing in the spring, which is a factor in determining school grades. Jenkins received an F after the 2015-2016 school year. 

Jenkins students have been on a block schedule for about three years, Hedstrom said, which allows students to attend their first-period class each day, but alternate the remainder of the classes throughout the week based on whether it’s a “blue day” or a “gold day.”

After the first nine weeks of the school year, Hedstrom said, 37 students received an F in their first-period class, which meets daily. He said the average number of students with Fs in their second- through seventh-period classes, which alternate daily, was 49.

“There’s 12 more kids receiving Fs in those block classes,” Hedstrom said. 

Hedstrom said administrators also sampled i-Ready diagnostic testing results after the first nine weeks, and found 54 percent of students who have language arts for first period reached their targets, versus 38 percent of those who have language arts as part of their block schedule. 

He said i-Ready diagnostic testing showed that 6 percent more students reached math targets when math was part of their block schedules, but the 16 percent improvement rate for a students taking language arts daily was a more compelling argument for the seven-period daily schedule.

Hedstrom said a block schedule is “basically a college schedule.” He said many students in seventh and eighth grades have trouble tracking which classes they attend each day as they alternate. He said teachers also find that students perform better when they attend a class each day.

While 77 percent of Jenkins’ teachers were in favor of a switch to a seven-period daily schedule, Hedstrom said, 23 percent were against the switch. Hedstrom said he thinks the teachers against the switch were only against it because the school day would start 15 minutes earlier.

The 7:40 a.m. start would not affect bus transportation, Hedstrom said, as buses currently arrive between 7:10 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. daily. He said some students arrive at school as early as 6:30 a.m. to accommodate their parents’ work schedules. 

“I realize that there’s some parents that might have a problem,” he said. “We’re not going to write referrals for kids that are tardy, but there will be consequences.”

Board member Kathy Jorgensen commended Hedstrom for “having the foresight” to address student achievement goals during the school year. 

“Why would we wait a … half a year when this is going on,” Hedstrom said.

Palatka Daily News

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