District 207 proposes more school day time for college, career prep
Maine Township High School District 207 officials want to make counselors a greater part of the school day as part of a renewed focus on college and career preparation.
In an interview with the Daily Herald this week, Superintendent Ken Wallace outlined his proposal to set aside time for counseling sessions during the school day that wouldn't interrupt classes.
It's one element of his previously proposed hybrid schedule for the district's three schools.
Currently, some 400 hours of class time is used throughout the school year when counselors pull students out of class to discuss college applications, financial aid and related postsecondary topics, Wallace said.
District 207 currently has a traditional eight-period schedule, but under Wallace's proposed "Hybrid 4" schedule, counselors would meet with students on an as-needed basis in large groups, small groups, or one-on-one during "individual enrichment" periods.
When they're not meeting with counselors, students would use the extended time for a study hall, or math or science lab.
"Can we do a better job on making sure their interests and talents match up with what they want to go to school for?" Wallace said. "We're trying to produce better outcomes when they leave us."
While maintaining that teaching time will always be the focus, Wallace also said the counseling sessions are "mission critical work." It's especially important now, Wallace argues, because so many students pick college majors that end up not being a good fit, all while accumulating debt.
Some of the district's counseling tutorials include SAT planning, resume writing, and "career cruising" -- aimed at giving students a chance to explore different jobs.
Counselors currently hold those sessions with groups of students in school auditoriums, often pulling them from English or physical education classes, Wallace said.
There's a total of 27 counselors at the district's three high schools, each assigned to a caseload of students.
"We're not asking for extra counselors," Wallace said. "We're asking to evolve the role of our counselors."
The proposed hybrid schedule combines elements of an eight-period day (on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays), and a block schedule (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
Each class would meet four days a week, and on one of those days, an extended class period would allow for more in-depth learning and lab experiments, officials say.
That would increase time for most classes, but cut time for science classes, which already meet for extended periods.
The Maine Teachers Association, the teachers union, has opposed the schedule change.
After a series of parent meetings this summer, district officials are planning additional meetings with their community advisory counsel.
The earliest the new schedule would be implemented, pending school board approval, would be the 2018-2019 school year.