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Office Hours with Ember Conley (3/25/2016)

Each week, Park City School District’s Office Hours with Ember Conley attracts more citizens. This morning 15 1/2 people attended the meeting. That 1/2 was a baby (get them started young!).

Today’s discussion stretched from later start times, to the status of teacher surveys, to the learning center, to the plan for both a 5/6 and 7/8 school, to growth, to some miscellaneous items. Below was my best effort at capturing major ideas expressed at the meeting.

  • The first topic was later start times for our classes…
    • Late start meeting last night was great.
    • Citizen said she has had kids and always dreaded early start.She says “we have a community that is so well educated and we have so many AP classes and are trying to compete and kids are taking heavy loads and classes like Physics lab is at 0 hour. The bus picks them up at 6:47 AM.” One of her kids will have zero hour runs track, and does debate. She realizes there is time that has to be made up but she feels our kids need more rest.
    • Citizen asks what zero hour is. Dr COnley replied it’s an optional hour of class before school. It starts at 6:15AM.
    • Citizen asks why classes have to be picked in March. The answer was that scheduling is complex with regard to when classes can be offered, what teacher needs are, etc.
    • Citizen says he understands that part of the scheduling problem is the buses.
    • Citizen says it is hard to work with late start times with younger children.
    • Dr Conley says if swapped times, Ecker Hill would be the earliest start time and that would be only two years.
    • Citizens asks when the elementary school would start. Response was that everything is still be considered but the current proposed scenario is at 8:15.
    • Two bell system (two start times for district) would cost extra $1 million in capital for buses.
    • Three bell system (three different start times) would have high school starting at 9AM. They would finish at 4PM.
    • Dr Conley says if that some administrators are concerned that if we are buying buses before we put money into facilities, something is wrong.
    • Citizen says 88 minute class periods seem too long. Dr Conley says 7 period day is more efficient than block period but that we’ve had great success with the block schedule (block schedule means certain classes on one day and othe classes on alternating days)
    • Dr Conley says she would personally prefer shorter days with more school days but that can cost a lot of money and has other drawbacks.
    • Citizen says she got a call before the meeting last night. She referenced a teacher who says he has kids who fall asleep first period. He says that’s not the case with later classes. She says many teachers have expressed this.
    • Dr Conley says one of the ripple effects with moving some schools to an earlier start time (and high school later) is after school programs. She says if classes start earlier, then young kids will be at after school programs for longer periods, so after school programs may have to cost citizens more.
  • A citizen asks if results of the teacher survey about the district been released?
    • Citizen says she has heard that teachers are afraid of speaking out. She feels they need to be able to speak out.
    • Dr Conley says she wants to hear what teachers think. She meets with teacher and the union regularly.
    • Phil Kaplan (of the school board) is facilitating this process. Dr Conley says there were so many comments that need to be coded to responses. Statisticians have been brought in to look at it. It should be released by April or May.
    • Citizen says there seems to be a culture of where teachers are afraid.
  • Citizen asks what the status of the learning center is. He says there are rumors flying about it being closed.
    • Dr Conley says they are actually adding positions at learning center.
    • Citizens asks if there are exit studies about how the kids are doing after leaving the learning center. Dr Conley says she will check into it but it is a hard problem to track.
    • Citizen says that perhaps the problem is that the district is talking about bringing the learning center into high school and people are getting confused.
    • Dr Conley says that there are more and more problems with TMJH. So, they are continuing to look at bringing the 9th grade into the high school. As part of that, it may make sense to bring the learning center into the high school as well because more technical classes could be offered to both learning center kids and other kids at the school.
  • Citizen asks why there is continuing talk about having two schools at intermediate level (5/6 and 7/8). He says trend is that K-8 now. He says you don’t find the 5/6 and 7/8 many places. He asks why are we trying to do that?
    • Citizen responded to the question and said having 9th grade at the high school makes sense. Many 9th graders need access to 10th grade classes. So, he believes a 9th grade close to the high school. He says then it becomes a building issue.
    • Another citizen says we should be looking at what is right for the kids before discussing building and traffic.
    • Citizen says most people are fine with the 9th grade being in the high school.
    • Dr Conley says she asked her elementary teachers about what grades should be together. She said some said it should be K-6. However, most said they should have 5th and 6th together. Many of the teachers felt that 6th graders should not be with 7th graders because of the different maturity levels. Teachers also felt that 5th and 6th should be out of the current schools with the addition of Pre-K.
  • Citizen asks what will happen with growth.
    • Dr Conley says an example is Trailside. She says we need three more teachers for additional classes but there are not enough classrooms.
    • Dr Conley says the biggest growth right now is 8th, 9th, and 10th graders.
    • Dr Conley says she has been talking with North Summit and South Summit. She says she has told them that until they give us money for schools, we will not open our classrooms. She said that did not go over well with them but she was saying what was right for our district.
    • Citizen says she has shifted her thinking because she thinks there will be many additional Kindergartners and Pre K full day, she thinks the district will be out of room in the elementary school. She suggests that an early learning center be added. She says that there could be 300-400 PreK and Kindergarten kids in this type of building and it could be built for 3 to 4 year olds. Dr Conley says those are the types of things that we are open to. Dr Conley says she HAS to do something with TMJH. She said she then has to get the 9th graders into the high school. She says the rest of it, she is open to discussing.
  • Citizen asks if Dr Conley is at liberty to share what bad things she just learned about TMJH. Dr Conley said no.
  • Citizen says one of the other things to think about there are opportunities when older kids mix with younger kids. She went to a K-8 and said the opportunities the younger kids had because of the older kids were huge. She said the little kids were separated from older kids in the building a bit but it worked.
  • Look at hiring dance teacher full time at Parley’s Park. She has been teaching part time reading through dance.
  • Dr Conley wants to add 10-14 additional teachers (1.5 to TMJH. 3 sections Kindergarten. Rest are elementary). Right now our lowest class size is 11. The largest average is 23.3.

Note: I also recorded today’s Office Hour’s meeting. If you are bored on a Friday night, and interested you may want to give it a listen. This meeting is at a loud coffee shop, so you may hear some strange noises from time to time. Click play below to begin listening.

 

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