NS School District eliminates early-out days in favor of uniform bell schedule
Linda Petersen and Matt Harris
MT. PLEASANT — Secondary schools in North Sanpete School District will change their bell schedules when students return in August.
Following lengthy discussion on the subject on March 21, school board members voted unanimously to eliminate early-out days and to instead set a uniform release time of either 2:30 p.m. or 2:40 p.m. each day at North Sanpete High School, North Sanpete Middle School and Pleasant Creek High School. The schools will continue to have an 8:15 a.m. start time.
The change, according to district Superintendent Sam Ray, was necessary to accommodate Snow College concurrent enrollment courses, where high school students take classes at the school but receive both school and college. The classes have seen low numbers.
“Maybe the reason is the schedule,” Ray suggested, introducing the discussion.
Comparing enrollment numbers between North Sanpete schools (51 students enrolled) to those at Manti and Juab high schools (91 and 109, respectively), Ray said it has difficult for Snow College to work with the early-out time on Mondays.
Also, “It has also been hard for students wanting to take Snow College classes to juggle the A/B blocks. Sometimes they’ve had to block out four classes just to take one Snow College class,” he said. “This way they will miss way less high school classes.”
But since NSSD is such a small district, students from high school, middle school and elementary school often ride the same busses. So any schedule change for some is a change that affects everyone.
As such, the school district sent out notification of the proposed change to parents throughout the district. Response has been huge.
“I have 10 pages, single-spaced, of responses from parents,” Ray said.
According to Ray, more than 50 percent of parents are supportive of the change, while about 25 percent asked that all schools keep the same bell schedule. That’s because with many parents working fulltime, they rely on older siblings to watch the younger kids after school, he said.
School district officials are still trying to work out options for elementary schools.
For several weeks prior to the meeting, board members had been feeling out the idea with teachers and school administrators. Not everyone approved of the plan.
Early-out Mondays have been of greatest benefit to teachers at those schools who met weekly together on those days as Professional Learning Communities, groups of teachers across all grades who work together to share teaching skills and experiences.
“In our district, we have the population equivalent of a Wasatch Front school spread across five campuses,” Ray said. “This has been the one opportunity for elementary teachers to meet with their peers and coordinate and collaborate.”
Many teachers had qualms about a new schedule that might hinder their ability to meet together. One school unanimously opposed a change, board secretary Claudia Christensen told board members.
“We’re looking at the alternatives to see if we can’t find a solution,” Ray said.
North Sanpete High School Principal Nan Ault supported the change at her school. “It is a step in the right direction for the high school, and supports efforts to provide college experiences for our students,” Ault said.
She saw other advantages as well, saying the new schedule would allow more independent study time for athletes and other extracurricular-activity participants.