A majority of South Eugene High School teachers sent a letter to the 4J School Board Feb. 19 asking the board to reconsider implementing the 3×5 schedule at all high schools next year. Several teachers were expected to raise these concerns at the Feb. 20 board meeting.
At least one teacher from International High School (IHS) also planned to speak at the meeting after a dozen IHS teachers signed a letter to the board outlining concerns about the schedule.
In their letter, the South teachers expressed concern that switching to a 3×5 schedule (three trimesters of five classes daily) from the current 2×7 schedule (two semesters of seven classes daily) will result in educational deficiencies, according to teacher Barbara Hascall. Under the 3×5 schedule, most students would get a year of coursework over two trimesters, resulting, the teachers say, in two weeks less instructional time, fewer opportunities for teachers to develop relationships with students, and less choice.
The new schedule, they say, will also complicate lesson planning, create gaps in instruction and make it harder to keep students focused (classes will go from the current 50 minutes to 70 minutes).
North Eugene High School teachers sent a similar letter to the board last month.
South’s teachers delayed voicing their concerns to the board while waiting to see if the Eugene Education Association (EEA) would oppose the change on contractual grounds; last month, EEA decided against doing so.
Superintendent Sheldon Berman has touted a common high school schedule for several reasons, chief among them giving teachers more opportunities to collaborate, reducing class size, and saving money as 4J anticipates $12 million to $21 million in additional budget cuts in 2013-14. Teachers counter that the new schedule would provide less collaboration time and purported savings won’t happen because the budget shortfall may erase significant class size reductions.
South’s teachers’ concerns arose, in part, after discussions with teachers at Churchill, which implemented the 3×5 schedule this year.
“The board must always give serious consideration to teachers’ opinions when policy changes impact the classroom,” Board Chair Jennifer Geller said, responding to the letter. “We also have a responsibility to consider a range of other factors, including ensuring that students have equitable educational opportunities and looking for ways to provide excellent education in extraordinarily challenging financial times.” She added, “No schedule is perfect, but some schedules are less costly and allow for smaller classes without adding staff.” — Anne Bridgman