An unprecedented discussion took place Monday night absent from the agenda in the South Williamsport Area School District, when four students, equipped with a petition, spoke out against scheduling changes due to take place in the fall.
Four students from the South Williamsport Area Junior-Senior High School said they believe the changes limit and block course offerings to students, which sparked a lengthy discussion among board members and administrators.
The changes, which will slash an eighth period typically reserved for study halls, now will be allotted for electives and daily team time for teachers to work with a targeted group of students, according to Superintendent Thomas C. Farr. Course instruction will be stretched an extra 7 minutes per day to help with instructional enhancement, Farr said.
However, Farr said freshman will be given a study hall, and seniors may have one depending on the elective they choose.
The students questioned how the changes would benefit them, and believe the transition will hinder their opportunities to take more challenging courses as a result of some the changes taking place - particularly in areas like music and advanced courses.
Others, the group said, believe the lack of study hall will prove detrimental to some students' grades, as many hold part-time jobs.
The idea behind the changes, Farr said, is to help enhance and increase instructional time in core courses and students' job involvement is not a concern of school officials.
"Our goal is to strengthen the school day," Farr said.
Board president John Engel said that, after examining the petition, the students want to keep their study halls, and believes that it should be kept as many students use that time for homework and studying.
If the students think there is a need for it, based on the amount of those against its removal in the petition, Engel said he thinks it's needed. Should it be taken away, he said he hopes teachers reduce assignments so students don't become overloaded.
Farr agreed, acknowledging that was the whole idea of working with the teachers on this.
Director Sam Burch said he has been hearing more complaints and conflicts from students and parents, and believes the changes also hinder student advancement and achievement that colleges most often look for.
High school principal Paul Anderson said the reason complaints are surfacing for next year is because there won't be study halls.
Board member David Frey said that with scheduling, conflicts inevitably will occur, whether in high school or college. He added there needs to be an acceptance of that reality - it goes along with schools.
No decision or discussion was made as to whether any alterations would be made with the changes next year.
In other business, Farr said there was no update on the budget this month, as nothing further has been heard from the state or on the federal stimulus money from last meeting. He reminded the board of a meeting on June 22 to approve the final budget as well as any personnel hires.
The next board meeting is at 7 p.m. July 6 in the Rommelt Building.