April 24, 2013

More time for students

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Watford City High School students and teachers are embracing the addition of one more class period. Through a series of minor time adjustments and the addition of five minutes to the start of the school day, the high school, since April 8, was able to add another block to their day in order to give teachers and students more access to each other.
“This is part of our school improvement process and goes along with some of the other programs we have implemented like Read 180. It is a way that we have come up with to better meet the educational needs of our students,” states Jay Diede, Watford City High School principal. “As the educational needs vary from student to student, we felt that we needed to create a system that would give students who need help the opportunity to get it and it gives teachers more time to work with their students.”
Diede states that the school’s schedule hasn’t been changed in approximately 30 years. But through a process of shaving time here and adding five minutes there, an eighth hour has been added to the school day with almost no change in the amount of time the students are in school.
“We have added five minutes to the start of the school day. And instead of the students beginning their day with homeroom, they start right away with their first period class,” states Diede. “We shaved time off of some other periods and moved the homeroom time to the end of the day. We haven’t taken away from any of our regular programs. We have just made better use of our time.”
According to Diede, not all of the students need extra educational help. So the school has created a two-tiered system in which students are deemed exempt or non-exempt during the eighth period.
“Students who are not exempt are required to use the extra time on their school work or they are allowed to go to the teachers they are having the most trouble with and get extra help,” states Diede.
Students who are exempt and are in grades 11 and 12 are allowed to leave after seventh period if they desire. All other exempt students have the option of using the time educationally as well, or signing up for teacher-led non-educational options.
“We have offered an old-time movie class, games like Yahtzi or chess, gym activities, and more. And when it gets warmer, we will offer the students who want to a chance to perform community service,” states Diede.
According to Diede, students are deemed non-exempt from the eighth period if they have a D or F in one or more of their fourth quarter classes. Also, students who have gone over the school’s eight-day absence limit and have to make up class time, have an incomplete and/or are missing work in a class, or if they have detention for discipline reasons are deemed non-exempt.
Diede states that since the system has been implemented, it has gone well.
“We have tried a number of things to help our students and this was one of the options we discussed. We decided that if we were going to implement this type of schedule change, we would need to give it a try first,” states Diede.
And that is exactly what has been done. Through this trial period, Diede has found that the eighth period has become an incentive and motivator for students to do better, an opportunity for students to get one-on-one help from their teachers and a reward for those students who are putting in the work. Which is why, according to Diede, the school will implement this schedule change for the 2013-2014 school year.