The Coronado Unified School District trustees met on Thursday, May 18th at District Offices where the 4×4 Committee delivered its much-awaited report on the controversial bell schedule, which has been in effect for the last two school years. Most students say the new schedule is “working for them,” according to surveys conducted by the 4×4 committee.
“I think this is a great schedule … I just wish I started earlier. I wish we were freshmen,” said Luke Johnson, Coronado High School Associated Student Body President.
Students say benefits include fewer classes to manage, improved faculty management of pace and instruction and more flexibility for student athletes.
The block bell schedule, which was approved by the CUSD school board in May 2020 and went into effect in the 2021-2022 school year, allows students to take four classes per semester and up to eight classes a year. The 4×4 allows for remediation and acceleration, expansion of college and career readiness, increased dual enrollment options and access to A-G requirements needed for University of California and California State admissions, according to school administrators.
But the schedule got big push back from faculty and parents in spring of 2021, with community members criticizing the pandemic-time implementation and inadequate staff support. The schedule continues to face criticism from some parents.
The 4×4 committee, which was established at the request of Trustee Scot Youngblood to provide a 360 degree view of the new schedule, was made up of five volunteer representatives, each chosen by a school board trustee. The representatives conducted more than 60 hours of meetings, feedback sessions, public forums and survey participation. The focus, according to Kevin Ashley, the committee representative who presented at the meeting, was primarily on CUSD and CHS stakeholder feedback. It was not to decide whether or not to keep the 4×4 bell schedule, said Ashley.
Although students, parents and faculty members shared several benefits to the 4×4, they also expressed concerns. Students noted the long length of classes and breadth of material covered in each class. Some said the fast pace made it challenging to connect with teachers, and harder to catch up if they missed a class. Students also said the AP testing schedule is problematic for kids who take an AP class in the fall and test in May.
Some parents agreed that the class period is too long, and noted challenges with scheduling, while faculty members said the pace was often exhausting.
While the 4×4 schedule seems to be reducing the D and F list, as well as improving the ability to meet the A-G requirements, according to CUSD Director of Learning Dr. Megan Battle, several community members said that it was detrimental to social connections.
Joseph Piepenkotter, a CUSD parent and graduate of CHS, said that the new schedule gives kids less quality time with teachers and friends and threatens to reduce enjoyment of the high school experience overall.
“High school is also a socialization process, I don’t think we should forget that,” said Piepenkotter.
The committee also made several observations and recommendations, which noted problematic timing and rollout, a drop in enrollment for AP Science classes, and the possible need for more modifications. The committee also noted that some respondents reported greater stress and anxiety with the bell schedule, which could negatively impact mental health.
But even stakeholders who didn’t love the new schedule don’t want to go backwards, according to Ashley, who said that survey respondents said “please don’t change it again.”
Trustee Whitney Antrim thanked the members of the committee, and said she hoped that their report took the pain away from some of them who may not have felt heard. The committee also made several recommendations, including implementing year-long blocks for select courses such as some AP classes, and electives like ASB, band, yearbook, etc. The committee also suggested more AP test prep and study sessions, as well as altering the academic calendar to start school a week earlier.
The committee advocated for the continued monitoring of the schedule to ensure it furthers the mission of meeting the needs of all students in the district, as well as increased faculty training. The committee also said it was important for parents to better understand how to guide students to maximize the schedule with course selection.
“We encourage parents to be involved in the registration process, so they are thinking ahead, not only for that one year, but for their entire four year plan,” said Karin Mellina, CHS Principal, during the CHS Bell Schedule report. “We have moved into this digital age, and every parent and every student has access to Synergy; they are using that platform to go in and select their classes. Parents are encouraged to make sure they are looking at that schedule too.”
Trustee Youngblood echoed this statement, and said that the level of parent involvement needs to be greater with this bell schedule.
“When you have more options, there are more ways for it to be underutilized, or be sub-optimal, so I would encourage every parent or guardian to be involved in that process,” said Youngblood.
He said he viewed the new schedule as a value-based decision, and commended the committee’s work as a “neutral sounding board.”
“The new bell schedule has been going on for two years. With respect to the stakeholder input, I did not hear the groundswell of opposition that would be necessary to make a drastic change,” said Youngblood. “It would be disruptive to go back. We need to make this current schedule work out as best we can.”
Earlier in the CHS Bell Schedule Report, Battle and Mellina shared that the school is trending in a positive direction in regards to the schedule, and is working on improving communication efforts for students, staff, and families. Battle shared that transcripts will now provide families with information on where students stand in regards to A-G requirements to help kids better map out their schedules. In addition, the school has added a new pathway in engineering and architecture.
The dual enrollment plan is also growing under the 4×4, giving students more opportunities to earn credits for college, according to Battle. She also noted that this will be the final bell schedule report.
ACT and ASB Reports
Also in reports, Association of Coronado Teachers (ACT) President Jennifer Landry shared the Coronado Schools Foundation (CSF) Art and Wine Festival was a huge success, showcasing art from Coronado students and raising money for CSF. She also shared that 35 ACT members were monthly contributors to the nonprofit.
In regards to staffing updates, she said students are still struggling with a lack of instructional aids.
“It’s been nine months without adequate staffing that our students and colleagues require and deserve,” said Landry. “We hope the district will take action so when we return in the fall, our students will have the required staffing. We have all felt the toll.”
Landry also recognized the passing of longtime CUSD educator Brenda Kracht, who was recognized earlier in the evening in a ceremony celebrating her legacy in teaching. Kracht was commended for being the educator that many aspired to be, and putting kids first every single time.
Landry also acknowledged the passing of Dr. Jim Zoll, a former CMS Principal and educator who worked with special ed students.
ASB President Luke Johnson shared in his report that Silver Strand is in the midst of CAASPP testing, and is also celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month. Village Elementary is prepping for its upcoming open house, and is celebrating a successful book fair. CMS is working on their talent show and inviting all incoming fifth graders to tour the campus. CHS just wrapped up AP testing, and enjoyed a petting zoo in the quad and a much-needed yoga session, according to Johnson.
2023 Teachers of the Year Recognized, New Hires
Earlier in the evening, the board recognized the 2023 Teachers of the Year, Laura Hill, Visual Arts at CHS; Kelly Sailers, 7th and 8th grade history at CMS; Robyn Fullmer, third grade teacher at Silver Strand Elementary; and Allyson Bans Silva, kindergarten teacher at Village Elementary. In addition to being named CHS Teacher of the Year, Hill was also named CUSD Teacher of the Year.
CUSD Human Resources Director Armando Farias announced new district hires: Peter Kuhns was named Village Elementary School Principal, and Nestor Espinoza-Agraz will be Assistant Principal at CMS.
In action items, the board approved an early retirement for Rise’ Cooley, the 2023-2024 school calendar, and a job description for two technology resource specialists. In addition, the board approved the Joint Powers Authority Agreement and Financial Services Joint Powers Authority, as well as the 2022 School Plans for Student Achievement.
Karl Mueller, in his Superintendent comments, shared that on May 31, the district will host a special school board meeting where the findings from the external safety audit will be shared, along with input from the Coronado Police Department and Coronado Fire Department.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting will take place at District offices on June 8 at 4pm.