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A change in students’ schedules could save Davenport school district millions

Facing $4 million in cuts, Davenport Schools administrators and parents discussed a scheduling change that could save more than $1 million.

But parents are asking:  At what cost?

It’s the discussion on whether high school students should have block or traditional scheduling.  The Davenport Community School district has used both in the past. Currently they used block scheduling, in which students attend four classes per day, and each class is 90 minutes long.

“It gives her time with the instructor. It gives her time to complete work and a deeper understanding of all subject matters,” said parent, K.C. Grieesenbeck, about her daughter.

Then there’s the traditional hourly scheduling, which is  seven classes per day, and each class is 50 minutes long.

“Trying to remember seven subjects versus four, that’s the thing I look at,” said parent Dennis Gibbs.

Thursday, November 14, 2013, parents, students and teachers got to voice their opinions at a public forum on the subject.  Most seemed to want to keep things the same, but the district could see annual budget savings of $1.3 to $1.6 million if they switch to the traditional scheduling.

“We’ve looked at it for the last couple years. The board asked us to be a little more serious (about scheduling changes) this year,” said Davenport Superintendent Dr. Art Tate.

However, a change to traditional scheduling could also mean the loss of jobs in the district.

“We will need fewer teachers to do it, but our hope is just normal attrition and retirement will leave enough positions and no one would lose their job,” said Dr. Tate.

The district says there’s no research that shows either type of schedule advances student achievement more than the other; but some parents think block scheduling is better for the students.

“As a parent of a student in the block and as a teacher in a traditional schedule I can categorically approve of the block over the traditional,”said Grieesenbeck.

Also up for discussion is whether or not to continue to start classes in early August not early September.

The Iowa Board of Education voted down a proposal that would allow the state to step up enforcement of the state policy that says schools cannot start classes until the week that includes September 1.  Under the current rules, school districts can request an exemption from that start date requirement.

Governor Terry Branstad said earlier school year start dates are unfair to the tourism industry in Iowa.

Both issues will be up for debate again on Monday, November 18, 2013 at Davenport West High School.