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Franklin Regional to vote again on 7-period school day

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

A previously rejected plan to establish a seven-period day at Franklin Regional High School might become reality next year.

Franklin Regional officials plan to vote later this month on a proposal to change the high school schedule in the hopes of increasing student achievement and offering teens more time to review lessons and tackle extra work.

“This gives a common time for students and teachers,” said Richard Sunny, a physics teacher at the high school. “If a student wants help, they can get it. If they're meeting expectations, but want to go further, they can have that time too.”

The plan originally was shot down by the school board in February by a 4-5 vote, with board members Kimberly Bondi, Dennis Irvine, Dennis Pavlik, Paul Scheinert and Jane Tower dissenting. If approved, high school students no longer would schedule study halls, said Joan Mellon, assistant principal at the school.

Instead, students would enroll in seven academic classes and have a 90-minute “Quality Resource Time” block scheduled. That block would include student and teacher lunch, as well as opportunities for students to receive remediation and enrichment from teachers.

For students who do not need to meet with teachers to review concepts, there are several other options, officials said. Students would have the opportunity to meet with study groups, work on online courses, take part in meetings for co-curricular groups such as band or work with academic extracurricular groups such as mock trial and robotics.

Under the current system, there isn't enough time for students to meet with teachers, said Alicia Leopold, a speech and composition teacher. Leopold recently offered her honors students an opportunity to have a one-on-one conference with her to discuss drafts of a paper. Fifty-seven students requested conferences; but despite allotting nearly three hours each day for a week, there were 14 students whose schedules didn't enable them to meet.

“That's 20 percent of my kids,” Leopold said. “They wanted help, and I couldn't get it to them.”

A mother of three students in Franklin Regional elementary and middle schools, Leopold said she admires the schedule flexibility in other grade levels.

“All three of my (children) have an opportunity for remediation and enrichment,” Leopold said. “I take a look in the mirror at myself and I can't get to (all of my students) to help them.

“That should be available at kindergarten through grade 12.”

Other teachers who took part in a presentation to the school board in favor of the schedule change agreed.

“There's a mistaken impression that they no longer need this support,” said Katie Rutherford, a social studies teacher at the school. “Meanwhile, the subject matter is more difficult.

“We need to remove the barriers and start giving students the help we know they need.”

Some students said they think the move favors teens who don't want to learn.

“I don't think the problem is that we don't have the time to learn,” said junior Luke Brennan. “It's that they don't care enough to learn. We have more time, and less classes to learn from.”

Classmate Victoria Zhang agreed and raised additional concerns.

“Spending an hour in “QRT” has me concerned that I will not be able to take certain classes,” said Zhang, a junior.

Of the 929 students in grades 10 through 12, 51 have classes scheduled in all eight periods this school year, principal Ron Suvak said. Partially, that is because of lab schedules and the availability of certain classes

“We've tried many times to change this schedule, and we've always failed,” Suvak said. “Here, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Brennan suggested that the proposal would stop students from taking responsibility for their learning.

“As students, we have to take responsibility for ourselves,” he said. “In the middle school, we're nurtured. In high school, we're still getting nurtured. In college, we're going to get shut down, and the real world debatably might be even worse.”

Officials said students can take some classes online, as the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit and the Franklin Regional Online Learning Academy have various offerings for students. That wasn't appealing to the students and some parents in attendance, who grumbled when officials mentioned the opportunity.

Parent Sue Cline said the plan is flawed — particularly for those who want to schedule band — and ultimately is going to hurt many of the high-achieving students.

“You have a school filled with honor students who would take eight credits if they could, but they can't,” Cline said. “My daughter is one of the few whose needs will be outweighed by the many. But they will get hurt in this process. High-achieving, hard-working kids are going to get burned.”

Janice Gray, who has three children at the high school that she classifies as “highest-honor” students, spoke in favor of the plan, even though it might mean a high-achieving student couldn't take two science or math classes during the same year.

“It's the school's responsibility to help students who have misplaced their natural love of learning,” Gray said.

“Maybe we can't always offer two sciences or two languages or whatever. But the large majority of our average students will benefit from this.”

Board members, who are scheduled to vote on the proposed change Oct. 15, had few comments but several questions on the proposal.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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