Board of Education reviews new high school bell proposal

A new high school bell schedule is in the works for the 2019 to 2020 school year.
Wilton High School Principal Bob O’Donnell presented what could be the new bell schedule at the Board of Education meeting Thursday night. No formal vote was made on the schedule.
The new schedule would see four class periods with each being 85 minutes long. The first period would start at 8:20 a.m. and the fourth and final period would start at 1:25 p.m. and end at 2:50. There would be an A-B-C-D four-block schedule each week through which the classes would rotate.
There will also be four lunch waves of 28 to 29 minutes, O’Donnell said. The first wave would start at 11:24 and the last wave would end at 1:18.
“We feel that with 85-minute blocks and fewer passing times we’ll have a more relaxed school day. It will be less stressful, fewer transitions, opportunities for deeper personalized learning, and teachers not continually rushing to teach students,” he said. “We think it’s going to be value added.”
One of the ideas behind the change was preserving instruction time, he added. This new schedule would see 11 minutes added to instruction time, O’Donnell said. The advisory schedule would also have 11 more minutes.
Once a month there will be a Warrior White day, O’Donnell said. On these days between 11:03 and 11:42 students will be able to meet with teachers, get extra help, make up tests and more.
“There are a lot of opportunities here to capitalize on some time when our students are so rushed to make things up before or after school,” O’Donnell said. “We feel this is seizing an opportunity to take some of the pressure off of students.”
There will also be three Warrior Blue days each month for advisory. Wilton High teacher Scott Webster said the current schedule is not the most optimal for students. Currently students have 45-minute classes which can be difficult for both students and teachers, he added.
“Students are constantly rushing around with numerous commitments,” Webster said. “There’s not therefore enough time to delve deeply into the course content. Teachers don’t have enough time to provide individualized attention to the students and it’s challenging to totally differentiate instruction.”
Webster said recent data has shown that student stress levels are at an all-time high. Wilton High teacher Kevin Cotellese said the change could help with students’ stress dealing with multiple classes.
“In a 45-minute amount of time, think about how long it’s taking for students to recall from where they left off,” Cotellese said. “Not to mention everything else that’s going on in their life.”
Wilton High Vice Principal Donald Schels said there will be two information sessions on the proposed schedule for students on Wednesday, Feb. 20. There will also be two parent coffees on Feb. 27 for parents to further understand the schedule, he said.
“We feel we have a communication plan so we can make this well known to our learning community,” Schels said.
With the new schedule there will be no formal test days. Schels said the administration will make sure the core subjects don’t have tests on the same day and there is a balance.
“That’s going to remain a paramount concern, the idea that we don’t tax students in that way,” he said.
Board member Deborah Lowe said she was in favor of helping studenst, but wanted to know how the change would improve academic performances.
O’Donnell said the proposal is not meant to be a solution for everything, but is encouraged by the idea of increasing instructional time.
“I think in terms of the quality and richness of the learning that we can achieve with longer periods with thoughtful planning and collaboration with colleagues...I think that really can pay us some dividends,” O’Donnell said.
The Board of Education’s next regular meeting is Feb. 21.