Thursday, February 4, 2010

The winds of change are upon us...

I have taught at a multi-track year round school for 20 years. We teach the same number of days as a traditional schedule, but I have a different vacation schedule during the year. It also means that we are divided into 5 groups and 1 group is always on vacation, while the other 4 are in session.

We were just informed today that this will be no more. The superintendent has decided that, as part of the budget cuts, we will be single track next year (everyone at the school at the same time) and probably go back to a traditional schedule soon after that. I don't understand this considering that recently I heard President Obama praising year round school schedules. Anyway....

What this means:

* I will end this year on June 25 and have to return on July 16. I normally don't return until August 14th. Major bummer.

* Anytime there is a major change like this, the teacher population changes drastically. Four years ago our principal and assistant principal retired and we had 17 staff members leave or retire because of it. Our school hasn't been the same since....I'm talking in a negative way. I know change is inevitable and can be a good thing, but that hasn't been the case so far (I could write an entire series of posts on this.).

* My breaks will change next year. I now have 3 weeks off in November (great for holiday shopping and getting ready for Thanksgiving) and 3 weeks in March (great for off seasons vacations), but next year I will have 3 weeks off in October and then 3 in February. Not too bad, but then having to adjust to a traditional schedule with no large breaks....major, major bummer. Please be sympathetic. I know you traditional teachers have never had this, but I have had this schedule for 20 YEARS!

* When we move to a traditional schedule we will lose a month of pay in the summer because our contracts overlap. MAJOR BUMMER!

* Our school was built for 500 children and we are at 900 now. With all the students at the school, all the time, we will have overcrowded common areas, like the bathrooms, playground and cafeteria. Our day starts at 7:50 and the kids leave at 1:50. Lunch starts at 10:10 for the kindergarten and ends at 12:15 for the 5th grade. Adding in those extra kids will move lunch about 30 minutes earlier or 30 minutes later.

* One of the reasons I have stayed at my school so long is because of this calendar. I have a 25 minutes commute (one way) everyday. Maybe it's time I moved closer to home.

* Having 2, 3 week chunks of time with Samuel during the year has been great, but the schools close to our house are traditional, so maybe it's best I adjust to the different schedule now, so that when he starts school we'll both be on the same schedule.

I kind of saw this change coming, but I still don't have to like it.

I am curious as to how other schools in other states run things. Please tell me how your school takes care of the following:

* duty coverage before and after school and at recess time
* PE, computer lab, library schedules
* lunch periods
* schedule reading and math blocks
* fit in music or art
* collaboration and prep time for teachers
* hours of operation
* get the community involved
* have stakeholder buy in

I am not a happy camper.......uuuggghhh!


AJ said...

Hey, I am not sure what the school with 900 kids do when they are made for 500.

Our school has around 500 kids, but was made for that many. We are in CA.

Each class has a time and day they go to the library, we have specific times for art and music which are worked into the week for each class.

We have 2 lunch periods, and I think when there is a rainy day schedule, all the kids from 2 classes get together so teachers have a lunch time.

Sorry your schedule is changing!
Sucks about the summer pay loss!

Melba said...

It's always a major bummer when big changes are forced upon you. Sorry to hear it! There are so many behind the scenes political things that go into these decisions...I doubt you'll ever get the entire story as to why they are making the choice to change to a traditional schedule.

Best of luck rolling with the punches!


Headless Mom said...

I'm in CA, and I'm not a teacher, so all I can speak to is the kids' schedule. But, here it goes anyway:

*Duty coverage rotates for before school, each teacher has parking lot, play ground duty a couple times a year for a week at a time. Our school has proctors for recess, lunch and after school.
*Lunches: K eats at 11, then the other grades go every 15 minutes after that (not in grade level order though.) They have about 15 minutes to eat then get out of the eating area. They always have an extra table for slow eaters. It's 45 min. total, so the teachers get their lunch break then.
*Each class gets 1/2 to 1 hour of computer lab per week, same time and day each week. Music is by grade level, 1x/week. Same thing for PE and library. Although the librarian allows kids to come in whenever, if they have a note from their teacher. Art is a little more sporadic. We do the "Meet the Masters" Program, funded by PTA and taught by parent volunteers.
*Every Wednesday the kids get out at 1pm (normal dismissal is 2:30), and that is the bulk of the 'given' prep time. Most teachers that I know stay after until 3:30 or 4.
*Kids are allowed on campus at 7:45, 8:00 start time.
*We have a really supportive PTA and community. Most teachers have several regular parent helpers for filing, grading, and preparing assignments, etc. Often the same parent will schedule the same 1-2 hour block with a teacher each day of the week and will go all year. I've done that every year for each of my boys' classes.

Sorry to be so long winded. I'll be happy to answer any other questions you have!

Kim said...

I teach in CA at an elementary school in a neighborhood where kids, their parents, friends and relatives are regularly touched by violence. It's a pretty rough place. The 850+ kids come from poverty - many of them from homes where English is not spoken.

We learned last week that we are losing our dean, our school curriculum director, all our aides, our computer tech, our copy clerk, and three teachers.

We also learned that my district, the largest elementary district in CA with the largest and strongest local teachers' union in the State, is cutting all vice principals. If the school site wants to have one, they must fund it themselves with categorical funds.

Library? Music? Art? Science? History? What are those? I can choose to take my kids to the library for 30 minutes every other week, but I would rather keep them in for instruction and have them use their own time to choose books because the librarian is just an aide. She does nothing more than read them a story and give them time to choose books.

We don't have time it the day to teach art/music/science and/or history because they aren't tested on our California Standards Test (CST), and we are in Program Improvement for the 7th straight year. Never mind that we are 98% free and reduced lunch and 50% English Language Learner, or that I feed kids in my classroom out of my own pocket.

Our lunch times begin around 10:30 for Kinder and run till 12:25 with a new group entering the cafeteria every 10 - 15 minutes.

The rumor mill is also churning with the idea that the district may cut class-size reduction which means the primary grades will no longer be capped at 20. They could have as many as 35 kiddos K-3. In a district of our size that means means upwards of 150 teachers could lose their jobs if that happens. That means RIF because there are less than 150 probationary teachers in my district at the elementary level.

Here's hoping I have a job to pay my new mortage.