'Change is hard': West York board steams ahead with new schedule
West York Area school board members voted on Tuesday to approve the district's proposal for a five-block schedule at the high school.
The five-block replaces the four-block — standard for most districts in the county — reducing class periods from 80 to 65 minutes, a loss of time which several students with a heavy load of advanced classes said is insufficient for their needs.
“It takes a toll on you and your mental health," said sophomore Erin Marshall at a recent roundtable. "I don’t think we can handle it.”
But board members voted 7-2 to approve the high school course selection and new schedule on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Members Jeanne Herman and Donald Carl voted against it.
High school Principal Carrie Jones presented the change in December as a chance to expand student opportunity, meaning more electives and more flexible course selection options.
Among the changes would be more time for study halls, more college dual enrollment options, and early graduation and early release for seniors.
Some students, teachers and parents voiced concerns, which included fitting material into shorter periods, having time to write curriculum and review textbooks for new courses, and making it to dual enrollment courses that are not aligned with the district's schedule.
Carl said the time lost in core subjects from shortening class periods is equal to 16 instructional days, noting, “no one has that much fluff to cut.”
Courses should have been approved before the schedule change, Herman argued, saying the district again was rushing into a decision without having all its ducks in a row.
But Superintendent Todd Davies said some courses wouldn’t exist without the schedule change, so it would be unfair to approve teachers writing curriculum to no avail.
Board member George Margetas said he’s growing weary of the pushback on recent district decisions. Administrators have proven themselves capable navigating other big changes, and there have been no formal complaints from teachers to the union, he said.
"Who am I to disagree with the people who do the job day in and day out?" he said.
The proposed change has been on the table since January 2018, said board member Douglas Hoover, with multiple meetings, roundtables and feedback from teachers, students and parents.
"This isn't coming out of nowhere," he said, while acknowledging that to have success with shorter times, classroom pacing must be different.
The last time the district passed through a program with community pushback was Lunch and Learn, an 80-minute block for students to eat, study and go to clubs or activities, which did not see the widespread behavioral problems parents predicted.
Board President Suzanne Smith said although AP-heavy schedules were a concern for her, students who take those courses make up about 10% of the student body.
"Change is hard, nobody likes it ... but I believe that this change will benefit a large number of our students," she said.