Clovis High students question extra school period

Clovis High School students Lorraine Archibald, left, and Caleb Negrete wrote letters to the Clovis News Journal about a proposed seven-period schedule at the school. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Clovis school officials are considering switching from a six-period day to a seven-period day at the high school in an effort to curb troublesome student drop-out rates, according to education officials.

A seventh period would help students obtain the credits they need to graduate — something that many fail to do, year after year, said Clovis High School Principal Jody Balch.

“Kids are coming to the high school credit deficient,” Balch said.

For the past 10 years, approximately 650 to 670 sophomores have entered CHS each year, Balch estimated. Yet, approximately 400 students graduated annually.
“You have to ask, Where are those 200 students going?” said Balch, adding that a portion of struggling students attend and graduate from Choices, an alternative high school in Clovis.

In 2006, there were 177 sophomores who came to the high school from ninth grade with less credits than they needed, Balch said.

“We need to do something different,” he said.

“With a six-period day they (students) can’t make any mistakes,” Balch said.
There are options for students who have failed classes. They can take summer school or evening classes, but many students simply don’t, Balch said. A seventh period would build an alternative into the school day — allowing students to take classes they previously failed, electives or a study hall.

Under a seven-period schedule, classes would be slightly shorter than 55 minutes, and the day would be slightly longer, according Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm.

Seidenwurm said the schedule change is dependent upon faculty support. Results from a teacher survey regarding the change should be tabulated by Monday, Seidenwurm said. Only if a majority support the change would it be implemented, she said.

Students, too, have a say in the new schedule, Seidenwurm said. They would choose whether to schedule a class in seventh period or a study hall, Seidenwurm said.
“It would be opportunity for kids who are behind (and need to catch up) or want to take more electives to do so,” Seidenwurm said.

Some students, however, are still reeling from the schedule change implemented last year, and oppose another change.

In the 2006-2007 school year, CHS students switched from a block schedule (in which they had four, 90-minute periods a day) to a six-period schedule. Seidenwurm, who implemented the change, said it would bolster academic achievement and cut back on costs.

“I am upset about the fact that they keep changing the schedule on us. They made it really hard on the students this year,” said Jena Bender, a CHS junior.

Bender believes students suffer under the six-period schedule because there is less time to ask questions, do homework and work with peers in class. Moving to a seven-period day, she fears, would compound those losses.

“There is not enough time to learn stuff in class, and I think we will fall really behind on everything,” she said.

“I feel like they (school administrators) have been making so many decisions without our consent. After all, we know what we would have to do to make it (school) work for us,” said CHS sophomore Caleb Negrete.

Negrete said he favors a return to the block schedule, like most students at CHS.

The proposal to move to a seven-period day was prompted in part by another proposal that would reconfigure Clovis junior high schools, creating a ninth-grade academy and two junior high schools. That proposal also addresses credit deficiencies among ninth-graders, administrators have said.

School board members should vote on the junior high school reconfiguration in late January or early February.

Clovis ninth-graders are currently housed in three junior high schools, although they are technically part of the high school. Clovis junior high schools have a seven-period schedule, and adopting the same at the high school would synchronize schedules, Balch said.

Clovis High computer teacher Kathy Valunas voted in the survey to implement the seven-period day.

“I am not opposed to (the seven-period day). I never worked on a seven-period schedule, so I can’t say if I am in favor of it,” Valunas said.

“The bottom line is what’s best for students. This proposal took that into consideration, giving teachers a specific time to work with students needing help,” Valunas said.