Schedule at HHS a bargaining sticking point
By JUDY SHERARD
The Hays High School schedule was a key discussion point when the USD 489 management and labor committee met Tuesday.
The committee meets throughout the year to discuss issues that could come up during negotiations between the Hays-NEA bargaining unit and the district's negotiating team. No decisions are made or votes taken until after negotiations are concluded, usually in the summer.
The schedule change became an issue when the two sides agreed in 2011 to a contract that requires HHS teachers to teach six classes for the 2012-13 school year rather than the five classes taught previously.
Members of the district's negotiating team at the time said the change would help with budget issues in long-term planning, restructuring and flexibility in the movement of teachers to other grade levels if their certification allows, and district needs warrant it.
Until this school year, Hays High had a block schedule where classes meet less frequently but have more time when they do meet.
Students enrolled in seven classes and had four 90-minute classes one day, and three 90-minute classes and a 90-minute seminar the next day.
Teachers taught five classes and had one 90-minute planning period each day.
A committee crafted a revised block schedule to meet the six class teaching requirement for the current school year with 86-minute classes and a 40-minute seminar period every day. Teachers teach three classes each day and have one 86-minute planning period.
Hays High teachers used 14 minutes of their contract time in the revised schedule. To balance that time, they are required to be at school 23 minutes before school and stay eight minutes after school. All other teachers are required to be there 30 minutes before and 15 minutes after school.
Kathy Wagoner, Hays-NEA bargaining unit co-chairwoman and Hays High teacher, said HHS teachers see three possible schedules, a block, a revised block or a traditional seven class day.
HHS teachers would like to return to the former block schedule.
"It's not about the money to them," she said. "It's the time. They need time to do all they need to do."
HHS is one of only a few schools its size with a block or revised block schedule.
Wagoner said the block schedule works best because of the distance students must travel to compete with schools of similar size in sports and extracurricular activities. That travel time means lost class time for student athletes.
Seminar periods allow those students and others to get help in staying up with their work. Some students have said they might not take advanced classes if there is less time to catch up during school hours, she said.
"The block schedule as we had last year, and for 19 years, was the best schedule you could ask for for the kids in this geographical location," Wagoner said.
"I understand the travel issue for sports, but students may have to decide whether (they) do sports or an advanced class because of time just like anybody else has to allocate time," said USD 489 board vice president Greg Schwartz.
Superintendent Will Roth said he considers the block schedule as an at-risk program because the seminar period gives students extra time to meet with teachers.
"There are lots of other at-risk programs that we have to pay for. That's one at-risk program we can't afford right now."