A small number of students in one of Puyallup’s three traditional high schools could start their days at a different time than their classmates next school year.
A committee of Puyallup School District staff and community members is exploring the idea of offering a flexible schedule on a limited basis.
“For some students, it could be that thing that meets their needs,” said Billie Lane, a math teacher at Kalles Junior High School.
She’s part of the committee looking into the idea. The group, which has about 14 members, is expected to make a recommendation to Superintendent Tony Apostle in the spring.
Some committee members say offering a flexible daily schedule could let more students take popular courses such as culinary arts – a magnet program at Puyallup High that fills up quickly.
The district also is working on a partnership with the Washington State University research and extension center in Puyallup, and a different schedule could create room for more students to participate.
Students do better in school when they feel connected, committee members said, and classes and activities like these can provide that link for some kids.
The Puyallup district is the second-largest in Pierce County, with about 21,300 students. Tacoma Public Schools, the county’s biggest, offers modified schedules at some of its schools, such as Lincoln High, where students in the extended-day Lincoln Center program stay late into the afternoon.
Puyallup surveyed about 5,600 students in grades eight-11 earlier this year about whether they’d want to start their school day at a different time. At least 500 students in each grade indicated some interest, said Chrys Sweeting, assistant superintendent of student programs, curriculum and assessment.
District parents have been asked to complete a similar survey.
Puyallup has an alternative school, Walker High. But “we can only serve so many kids there,” Lane said.
It’s not yet clear exactly what a flexible schedule would look like at the district’s traditional high schools; the committee still is fleshing that out.
Some students could start their day at 10 a.m., taking core classes with the rest of their classmates and then courses such as culinary arts later in the day.
Sweeting said many details, including food service for kids, would have to be ironed out.
The district’s teachers union also must be on board, officials said. Karen McNamara, president of the Puyallup Education Association, said no formal discussions have happened yet.
Sweeting said that if the concept does move forward, it likely would start with 25-50 students in one school, possibly as early as the second half of the 2012-13 academic year.
The committee that’s looking into the changes formed in 2009 to explore education options. It’s separate from the group looking into a possible switch to a middle school grade configuration. The two groups’ work is unrelated, Sweeting said.
Bob Neilson, a committee member whose children attended district schools, said he’s not interested in giving students a flexible schedule so they can sleep in or hold a job outside school.
“Whatever we do,” he said, “I want it to improve their chances to learn.”
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058
PARENTS HAVE A SAY
Puyallup School District parents have until Tuesday to fill out a survey about the potential need for flexible scheduling. It’s posted on the district’s website, puyallup.k12.wa.us.