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Posted: 06/30/04

High school returns to a 6-hour schedule

Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo High School will go back to a six-hour schedule next year without a seminar hour, and the school day will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:15 p.m.
       In addition, juniors will be allowed to drive themselves from the high school, located on 32 Mile Road to the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center (RETC), located on Jewell Road off 29 Mile.
       Romeo High School Principal Gavin Johnson presented these changes to the school board at its meeting Monday night, which were later approved by the board as part of the changes to the high school handbook.
       The RETC opened in the Romeo district in the 2003-2004 school year to help alleviate overcrowding at the high school. The school offers classes in technology, business, hospitality and health occupations, among others. About 500 RHS students attended the RETC as part of their day in the 2003-2004 school year; 275 in the morning and 225 in the afternoon.
       A seminar hour was added to the high school day last school year to allow students attending classes at the RETC time to get back and forth between that school and the high school.
       "There were a lot of staff members who worked very hard to try to make this work (with the seminar hour)," Johnson said. "We had a lot of successes and a few failures. Moving toward next year, I felt it was necessary to try something else to make it work. So we've decided to move it back to six hours. At the end of next year, we'll evaluate both and decide what worked better."
       Johnson said many students liked the seminar hour for the chance it gave them to get some homework done, or just to take a break in their day.
       "A lot of kids used it as tutorial ‹ but a lot didn't," he said.
       With the schedule being readjusted for six class hours a day, class periods at the high school will now be bumped up from 51 minutes back to 55 minutes, which they were in the 2002-2003 school year and prior to that. The RETC school hour will go from 48 minutes to 51 minutes.
       "The good thing about this is we get to put a lot more time back into the curriculum during the day," Johnson said.
       Last year, seniors who had their own cars were allowed to drive themselves back and forth between the two schools, if they had parking permits. These students were not allowed to transport friends. They could transport siblings or other family members such as cousins if they had special permission from the school. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors were all required to take the bus, unless they were family members of seniors who were driving.
       Johnson said staff members worked hard to enforce this rule, and felt most students were ready for the next step of letting juniors drive themselves versus taking the bus.
       "What we're finding is some kids aren't taking classes at the RETC just because they're missing the social atmosphere, and they don't want to get on the bus four times a day," Johnson said. "We're thinking it's about time to allow juniors to drive to the RETC. We've had good results with seniors driving. It would make a lot more students want to go to RETC."
       With limited parking at the high school, parking privileges have always been based on whether students have to travel as part of their schedule, Johnson said. These traveling students include co-op students, student mentors and those who attend the RETC.
       This means juniors who attend the RETC may get parking privileges over seniors who stay at the high school all day long.
       The high school has about 200 spots reserved for students. The number was slightly higher in the past, but spaces have been taken up by the new tennis courts, and also by the skateboard park.
       "Students who don't need to drive as part of their day may not get parking privileges," Johnson said.
       The school board members didn't see a problem amending this policy.
       "As long as you're the one telling the seniors they can't drive," board Treasurer Ed Bennett said to Johnson.
       Also at the meeting:
       € Handbooks for Indian Hills, Croswell, Hevel and Hamilton Parsons Elementary Schools were approved.
       € Several financial issues were raised by and coaches and teachers during public comment.
       Jason Couch, a football coach at the high school, asked the board about the pay-to-play policy set to go into affect for the 2004-2005 school year. The policy, which board members voted on in the spring, will require high school students to pay $150 per sport they wish to play, and middle school students to pay $80 per sport.
       Couch raised the issue of some parents having multiple kids playing multiple sports. In particular, he mentioned parents that may have to fork over as much as $900 so that their children can play sports. The board had discussed at past meetings a possible family discount, but never took any action.
       The board had also discussed at its last meeting looking into pay-to-participate for different club activities at the schools, so that the cost of pay-to-play might be lowered. Clubs that were brought up included band, language clubs and Key Club. Activities and Athletic Director Greg Brynaert has been looking into the issue and researching which clubs were specifically tied to academics (meaning participating in them as part of a students' grade). The board said it would hopefully have some results from this investigation at its next meeting.
       € Romeo teachers also brought up concerns that they had been forced to pay for laptops that had been bought for the school district by the state. These teachers were recently given a choice to either pay $150 for the laptops or turn them back into the district. Teachers expressed concern that teachers in other districts were allowed to keep the computers at no cost to them. The school board said it would have its director of educational technology look into the issue.

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