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Parents: New Aspen High School calendar too limiting

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
About 40 parents crowded into the Aspen School Board meeting room Monday afternoon to express concerns over a change to Aspen High School's master class schedule, expected to take effect next fall.
Lauren Glendenning/The Aspen Times |

A change in Aspen High School’s master schedule for the 2016-17 school year is getting a lot of pushback from parents who say the current schedule works just fine.

About 40 parents filled the Aspen School Board’s meeting Monday afternoon to voice concerns over the change from eight periods to seven in the 2016-17 high school class schedule. The current schedule offers students 32 opportunities over four years to earn the 24 credits needed for graduation, while the new schedule reduces those opportunities to 28 over four years.

Beth Wille, also a kindergarten teacher, was one of several parents who spoke during public comment Monday, saying that’s simply not enough when students need free periods and ample choices for their elective classes. A forward-thinking, progressive school district such as Aspen’s should offer scheduling that reflects those values, she said.

Mary Virginia Reid, the parent of a freshman and a sophomore at Aspen High School, said the process in which the schedule change was made concerns her. She said it didn’t feel inclusive or transparent, adding that she only learned the details of the change Monday despite considering herself to be “pretty on it” as a parent.

Brian Childress, director of curriculum for the district, told The Aspen Times earlier Monday that parents were a big part of the conversation, noting there was more than 20 hours of parent involvement and input. The principal also sent out an automated phone message to all parents inviting them to a Dec. 3 public meeting about the process. The Aspen Times reported that roughly 20 parents took part in that master schedule focus group, where parents shared which academic values they viewed as most important.

Many parents in the room Monday had attended some of those meetings but said their voices didn’t appear to be heard.

The high school’s leadership team, made of up 16 teachers representing each department, hired curriculum consultant Sammye Wheeler-Clouse in October to help develop the alternative scheduling options. The team involved focus groups made up of students, parents, staff and school board members, according to a Jan. 22 letter to parents from Superintendent John Maloy.

Another parent wrote a letter to the board Monday that said she attended a focus group last fall and felt encouraged that leadership team members would consider parents’ values in their decision-making process.

“However, after hearing how the proposed schedule will work, it is clear that the most important values of the parent focus group, flexibility and choice, were left out of the schedule, and that the parent focus group was not formed to really be part of the decision-making process,” her letter said.

Many of the parents at the meeting were especially concerned about the students taking International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, as well as student-athletes, citing not enough time in the new schedule for one-on-one access to teachers and other free time necessary for studying and extracurricular activities.

Childress said increased frequency of classes was a high priority for all of the stakeholder groups the team heard from. The current schedule where a class will meet three times one week and twice the next is tough for students who do participate in a lot of extracurricular activities, he said. If students miss classes, it could sometimes be 10 days before they see that teacher again. He said teachers were reporting that it was “like starting all over again” with students in those instances.

Now, instead of students seeing their teachers five times in two weeks, they’ll see them four times per week, he said, and no electives offerings will be cut.

School Board President Susan Marolt told parents the board couldn’t make decisions relating to the schedule Monday because it wasn’t on the official agenda; however, she said the board would discuss the matter and get back to parents with answers.

lglendenning@aspentimes.com


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