Of the Baker City Herald

Things are going to be different when Baker School District students arrive for classes this fall.

The school board Tuesday night approved a new school calendar that calls for all students to be released early every Friday.

Elementary students in Baker City will start and end class at new times next year, and all kindergarten students will attend class all day every other day. Brooklyn Elementary has operated on that schedule for the past three years.

These adjustments will be worth the effort and should help improve instruction and result in better time management for students, parents and staff, according to those who developed the plan.

Were hoping to reclaim our academic day with this, said Vickie Smith, a second-grade teacher at Brooklyn Elementary School.

She and two other members of the districts Time and Learning Committee outlined the plan Tuesday night. The committee included teachers from most buildings in the district and all principals.

Sharon Defrees, a Baker High School science teacher, said that by releasing students early on Fridays, the district will have five more uninterrupted weeks of class time than it did this year.

Kathi Shaw, a sixth-grade teacher at Churchill School, presented the new daily class schedule. It calls for Baker City students in kindergarten through Grade 6 to begin class at 8:15 a.m. The day will end at 2:45 p.m. for those in kindergarten through Grade 5 and at 3 p.m. for sixth-graders.

Baker Middle School will continue to begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Classes at the high school will continue to start at 8:10 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m. four days per week. The Haines and Keating schedules also would remain unchanged. Classes begin at 8 a.m. at Haines and end at 2:30 p.m. Keating students begin their day at 7:30 a.m. and end it at 2 p.m.

Friday Forums will be scheduled each week with classes for kindergarten through Grade 5 to be dismissed at 1:15 p.m., except Haines, which will be dismissed at 1 p.m., and Keating where classes will end at 12:30 p.m. Grades 6-12 will be dismissed at 1:30 p.m. each Friday.

Staff will use the rest of the day each Friday on a rotating schedule for staff development, parent/student conferences/tutorial, collaboration, and grading/progress reports. Teachers also will be available for tutorials on other Fridays, except those scheduled for staff development.

Director Dan Garrick questioned the time available for tutorial sessions when just seven days are included specifically for that purpose on the schedule.

How can you collaborate from building to building and still tutor kids? he asked.

Defrees said instructional assistants would help provide tutoring during times when teachers arent available. National Honor Society members and other students also are available for tutoring sessions. Teachers will continue to be available after school Monday through Thursday and 15 minutes before school starts daily to help students, she said.

The changes also will require adjustments to the bus schedule, which will change to pick up elementary students first before traveling to the middle school and high school. A new schedule will be hammered out this summer, according to Superintendent Toni Hardman.

The day-long kindergarten was proposed based on the success of the Brooklyn program, Pat Braswell, South Baker principal, told the board.

Parents Amy Clarke, Karen Baxter, Lisa Birkmaier and Kathy Perry praised the all-day program for providing a calmer, more productive learning atmosphere for their children. All four mothers have had children go through the daily half-day program and the alternating full-day program.

My son enjoys going all day, Baxter said. Hes tired, but so are my 16-year-old and my 12-year-old.

The alternating schedule allows her to schedule appointments and make special plans with her son on the days hes not in school, she added. Teacher Bonnie Taie provides students with homework on their days off to supplement their studies.

The statewide and national trend is for kindergarten classes to meet all day, every day, Braswell said. The district would require additional classroom space to implement that program, he added.

The alternating all-day program gets all children to class in the morning, which is their prime learning time, said Gary Timms, Brooklyn principal. Other benefits are that it reduces the time spent in transition to class and provides extended time for special projects.