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East Aurora considers new student schedules

Spencer Byrd new East AurorHigh principal

Spencer Byrd, new East Aurora High principal

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Updated: January 19, 2014 11:48AM

AURORA — East Aurora High School is considering new scheduling options for students, including more before-school classes and a program that would allow seniors to take a heavier load of college-level courses.

In a presentation to School Board members on Monday, East High Principal Spencer Byrd said many of the new scheduling ideas are rooted in getting students to school earlier and offering students more flexibility and choice.

“Students with idle hands seem to find some mischief on occasion,” he said. “We want to keep them engaged and working on what they want to be doing.”

Byrd said he’d like to offer more “zero-hour” classes, which are offered before school starts, which he said could help reduce truancy and tardiness rates — a goal of the high school administration.

Byrd said the high school already has seen the number of students who come to school early rise since the district started offering free breakfast to all students this school year.

Right now East High offers physical education before school and about 40 students are enrolled, many of whom do so to free up their schedules during the day to take more electives.

East High changed its bell schedule this school year by reducing the number of academic periods from seven to six, which drew some criticism from students who worried the schedule would limit their options for electives, such as choir and band.

The high school staff is in the process of asking students which classes they’d like to see offered before school, Byrd said, and administrators are gauging interest among teachers, who would start and end their days early if they taught a zero-hour class.

“It would have to be the right classes, the right students and the right teachers,” Byrd said.

Byrd said he’d also like to offer math and literacy tutoring before school and open the computer lab and library. The staff is looking into whether some of the Title I federal money the school receives could be used for such offerings.

Another program the high school is considering would target students who are interested in entering the workforce after they graduate, instead of attending a four-year college.

The program, which Byrd said he would like to pilot next school year, would allow seniors to attend Waubonsee Community College to take dual-credit courses, in addition to the physical education and high school English classes seniors need to fulfill their graduation requirements. Seniors would graduate with one year of college under their belts, with the goal of completing a two-year certificate program.

Byrd said he oversaw a similar program at Midland High School in central Illinois, where he served as principal for three years before becoming East High’s principal earlier this year.

The key is identifying the right students for such a “fast track” program, Byrd said. In the past, he had students apply for the program, write a paper explaining why they wanted to be in the program and then go through an interview process with both him and a school counselor.

Students would have a contact at the community college, Byrd said, and there would be regular check-ins during the first semester.

Byrd said he would make formal proposals on the ideas to the School Board for consideration at a future meeting.

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