The students at Skyline were introduced to a new flex schedule in an attempt to change schools for the better and get students more prepared for college.
The new schedule was introduced because of the Gemini I program. It is part of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project that is a state push to create change in Kansas schools. There have been many schools involved in the program. Seven school districts participated in the second stage of change, the Gemini I program, which included 14 schools. Skyline was not part of the initial 14 schools to get chosen, however, the Kansas State Department of Education allowed the remaining 21 school districts that applied to continue with the program on a smaller scale.
“It’s basically the redesign that every Kansas school is going to have to do at some point in the near future,” teacher Morgan Ballard said. “Gemini I and Gemini II were just the names given to the schools that were going to launch ahead of time.”
There was actually a redesign that occurred before the Gemini programs. This was the first stage of change, and was called Mercury 7. The program was named after the seven school districts that participated. The KSDE received 29 applications from school districts and 14 schools launched their new designs in August.
“The school redesign is going to be an ever-changing deal, as we locally see changes and things that we need to work on and address,” Ballard said about the Gemini program.
Ballard is very involved in the new program. He is the head of the group of teachers in charge of evolving the flex schedule to run smoother and have fewer overlaps with classes. This has been a serious problem with the flex schedule that the school is trying to address. Overlaps have not been the only issue for students and teachers.
“I don’t like it because it doesn’t give me a sense of foundation,” senior Jonathan Wiltshire said. “It is always changing all the time and it’s been multiple weeks into the flex mod scheduling and it’s still not even done being fixed.”
The teachers and students have had problems adjusting to the new schedule. This included using the first two days of the school year to create and edit students’ schedules.
“I don’t like the overlapping of classes,” teacher Kim Lee said. “I feel like that puts a lot of pressure on the students and the teachers.”
Lee, however, is hopeful for what the schedule has to offer. She also has a unique idea on flex times. Lee hopes that administration can find a way to get students that are struggling with a class in to flex times that will help them. She wants students’ flex times to take place in the class that the students are having trouble in. That way the teachers can help them.
There has also been a problem with the students’ schedules being entered into PowerSchool. The online portal allows teachers, parents and students access to grades, scores, attendance, schedules, and the school bulletin. The way the flex schedule is being entered is causing the site to have trouble with overlaps. Instead of helping the student choose between overlaps, the program puts the student in both classes, even if they overlap. This can be very confusing for students and teachers alike.
Keeping role and recording grades has become a hassle for some teachers. For example, one teacher is now keeping role for 39 different periods, compared to last year’s six. This is because of the many flex times and overlapped classes.
Others, however, enjoy the change that the schedule has brought to Skyline and believe that the pros far outweigh the cons.
“I’m digging the new flex schedule,” sophomore Braden Tyler said. “I think it really makes things more flexible and I like the free time that we get.”
The free or flex time, is what the students have began calling the time during the day when they have no classes. These are times when students have a chance to do homework and other school activities, that without the flex time, they would have to do at home. The flex times are supervised by teachers that do not have a class at a given time, or have room in their classrooms while teaching a class. The flex times can be very helpful for students and allow them much-needed time to get work done, but other students find them rather annoying.
“Flex times are pretty awful because there is about a hundred kids in each one,” Wiltshire said.
Though “100 kids” is an exaggerated figure, flex times can become rather crowded. Depending on what teacher is in charge of the time, and how many kids are present, they can often do more harm than good. Wiltshire also noted that a flex time occurs in a room at the same time he takes online foreign language. He said that the students in the flex time can be very disruptive with loud talking. He said that it is a big problem for him because it makes it difficult to record his voice, which is sometimes required for the online class.
“There is obvious flaws, but once again this isn’t something that you can perfect, it is something that you have to try,” Ballard said. “If there is a failure period then you have to say, this is what did or didn’t work, and this is what we need to do better.”
Skyline is planning to continue working on the ever-changing flex schedule, which is positive because the flex schedule is here to stay.
“What kids, teachers and parents need to understand is that as we come up with better ways to do things, or as we see needs, we will make these changes,” Ballard said. “It is definitely going to change, but it is still going to be a flex mod.”
This looks positive for Skyline because overall students seem to enjoy the flex schedule. There was an online student poll and the results showed that about 72% of the students enjoy the flex schedule and about 24% do not enjoy it.
The flex schedule is here to stay, whether students like it or not. The new schedule has its flaws, but also brings much-needed change. It can also allow students more time to get school work done. Participating in the Kansans Can School Redesign Project seems to be bringing a positive change to Skyline. There is a chance that the Gemini I program could also be bringing other changes to the school. For students that do not enjoy the flex schedule there is much change that will be brought to the schedule before the next school year begins. Overall what needs to be noted is that Skyline seems open to change. It is now up to the Gemini committee to follow through with what it has promised.