Silver Spring International to keep eight-period schedule -- Gazette.Net







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Students at Silver Spring International Middle School will continue learning in eight periods, following a long discussion among staff, leaders and parents about whether the school should shift to seven periods.

Students at the middle school take four classes a day, for a total of eight periods every two days. Some parents say the schedule gives their children an important opportunity to take elective classes, such as art and music, that they might otherwise miss.

The alternative would have meant the students take seven classes in one day.

Principal John Haas said the school staff initiated a process last school year to see if the eight-period schedule is feasible and sustainable.

Staff members were concerned about rising student enrollment and some teachers having more class periods than others, he said.

“The staff wanted to see if they could create a schedule that was more equitable for all of the colleagues and staff members,” he said.

A Master Schedule Review Committee — including school staff, leadership and parents — studied the class schedule and possible alternatives in October 2013.

The committee made a recommendation. The school’s parent, teacher and student association submitted its thoughts to the district’s Associations—Deputies—Chief Operating Officer group, according to a memo from Superintendent Joshua P. Starr to county school board members on Monday.

The group consists of representatives from the school system’s employee associations, two deputy superintendents and Chief Operating Officer Larry Bowers.

Darryl Williams, associate superintendent of middle schools for the district, said details of the ADC group’s meeting to decide the issue are confidential.

“There were some common themes that people felt the eight-period schedule worked” for Silver Spring International Middle School, he said.

Heather Powers Sauter, president of the school’s parent, teacher and student association, said the eight-period schedule lets students take electives they might otherwise not have due to a lack of time or resources.

Many students at the school receive free and reduced-price meals, she said.

“Frankly, if my son only had one elective, I think he would survive, but I think it would be a great loss to our community if we didn’t have access for all of our students,” she said.

Sauter said she was happy the school system recognized that eight periods is a good fit for the school.

However, she later added in an email, “Parents will stay on MCPS to ensure that SSIMS teachers have the resources and support they need.”

The group of school system officials supported the current schedule, but decided the district would not give the school extra funding that committee members and others in the school community expressed interest in.

Williams was not part of the group, but will continue working with the school, along with his office’s staff. He said the school needs to look at how it uses its existing resources before the district adds more.

“This is a win-win for everyone, but it requires us to really look and see what’s going on and how they’re scheduling for kids and how we can support them,” he said.

Haas said keeping the eight-period schedule will push the school to make some decisions about how to best use its resources.

“It will force the school to make some good decisions about what do we value in the school, what courses do we value, what do we think about the schedule and how does that support the value statements,” he said.