Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, students at the Oswego high schools will be required to take six classes instead of the seven classes offered this year.
The six classes will be supplemented by the option of instructional support that will function as a type of guided study hall, explained board president Bill Walsh at the Monday night board meeting. “The focus is on academic achievement and giving support where support is needed.”
However, students that want to opt out of study hall can do so and take seven classes with an approved waiver from a parent or guardian, said Walsh.
“Our intent was not to force them to take seven classes, but to give the option of taking six if that is what is best for their child,” said board member Mike Scaramuzzi. “We’re not going to force kids to take a guided study. Today that is not an option. Today when they walk in the building they have no option to withdraw [from the seven classes].”
But many parents and students who turned out at the Monday night board meeting disagreed with the decision to include a guided study rather than let students automatically take seven classes.
“The six classes are not rigorous enough for college. I don’t think anything is going to change [with the study hall],” said Oswego resident Diane Cabiness. “Pick 6 is the term I relate to the lottery and I prefer to not gamble with my child’s future.”
“Study hall is anything but an opportunity to study,” said Kevin Bradley who has a daughter in Oswego schools.
“I don’t think it’s an adequate use of our time in school,” said current OHS senior Caleb Beck, who takes multiple AP classes and is an all-star cross-country athlete. “People who are going to be using it are going to be abusing it.”
Board vice-president Alison Swanson said though that the students not represented at the meeting, those that weren’t taking AP classes or involved in extracurriculars, and were struggling to pass their current classes were the ones that they should be concentrating on for the academic support.
“One commenter said they wanted those students to stay in school. I want to keep all kids in school.”
Swanson, who teaches at West Aurora High School, said she’s had students who don’t have the support at home, some who haven’t eaten that day and some that have no way to stay after school or get their early for help.
“If I can’t help them now I’ve set them up for failure,” said Swanson. “This gives them the opportunity for someone to help them.”
Many parents and students also said that they were concerned about fine arts electives being impacted by the change. Students said they had found friends in their elective classes that they may not be able to fit now due to the study hall.
“This is not a conspiracy to shut down choir, band, get rid of electives or any thing else,” said board member Brent Lightfoot. “That’s the opposite. We’re doing this to make things better.”
The 2012-2013 school year saw a change at the high schools from a four period block schedule to an eight period flex schedule, that included 7 classes and one lunch/guided study.
Walsh said the decision to only require six classes was that they felt many students could benefit from the use of an instructional study hall.
“What are we here for?” asked Walsh. “We want the student to be prepared when they leave the system.”
Walsh added that the sixth class, the instructional study hall, could focus on any topics from students looking for more AP guidance to those needing extra help in a subject.
“There’s students that need additional resources,” said Walsh. “Others will find that they want to take seven classes. This is an option instead of a cookie cutter program.”
Superintendent Matthew Wendt said the addition of the guided study wasn’t mean to “dumb down the curriculum. “Expectations are going to increase. We have serious issues that need to be dealt with and more of the same isn’t going to work.”
Students who still want to take seven classes can do so, a message that the district wanted to make clear, said Walsh. For students who wish to take seven classes they will need to fill out a form and have it signed and approved by a parent or guardian.
Many parents and students expressed the opinion that the waiver form should be flipped: students wishing to take a guided study hall get approval and seven classes remain the norm.
“The important part here is that we want our students to be successful,” said Walsh. “We have to be able to support all of our students.”