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Morgan Hill
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December 6, 2022

Middle school minutes

Although no action was taken, it was apparent during Monday
night
’s regular School Board meeting that trustees were in agreement
about reducing instructional minutes at the district’s two middle
schools next year.
Although no action was taken, it was apparent during Monday night’s regular School Board meeting that trustees were in agreement about reducing instructional minutes at the district’s two middle schools next year.

Trustees agreed to bring the issue back for action at the next board meeting February 9.

“While we are building a new high school, at the same time we are back to establishing what a middle school should look like,” Trustee Shellé Thomas said.

With the projected opening of Sobrato High School in August, Live Oak High will revert to a 9-12 configuration, and ninth graders will leave Britton and Martin Murphy middle schools, leaving them with 7th and 8th graders.

According to Murphy Principal Rhoda Wolfskehl and Britton Principal Jim McDonald, the Middle School Restructuring committee has been discussing the idea of changing the instructional day for middle school students to closer resemble the state requirement of at least 55,718 minutes per year.

Currently, the middle schools, since they have housed 9th graders for more than 20 years, are providing 64,800 instructional minutes per year. Students at Britton Middle attend school from 8:45 a.m. to 3:28 p.m., and students at Martin Murphy attend from 8:42 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.

Four teachers and a parent told trustees they strongly supported reducing instructional minutes.

“I want what’s best for kids, and there’s a reason why middle school is not high school for short people,” said parent and Britton teacher Nancy Altman Palm. “Kids at this age have an attention span of 12 to 15 minutes.”

Altman said that with a shorter period, teachers could plan for two major topics, with transition time in between, for a more effective use of the students’ instructional minutes.

Parent Molly Edgar said she believes the additional time middle-schoolers currently have in class is not necessarily productive time.

“I’ve spoken with several teachers at Martin Murphy, all of whom have said that the quality instruction time in their classrooms occurs during the first 30 to 45 minutes of the period,” she said. “After that, their class as whole tends to lose focus, attention and productivity. Often the final 10 to 15 minutes is filled with desk work, free time or students doing their homework until the bell rings.

“I for one am a parent that would rather my 12- or 13-year-old student attend class and receive instruction when it is an optimal time to do so, and to come home for a short down time and nourishment and then begin working on his homework and long-term projects before the day’s end when he is tired and not willing and/or able to be productive.”

McDonald said he and Wolfskehl have discussed the minutes with their staffs.

“I have to listen to the practitioners,” he said. “They’re the ones who see the kids in the classroom.”

McDonald also said middle school teachers and he and Wolfskehl have discussed the opportunities for staff development and teacher collaboration.

“Teachers would not be going home earlier,” he said. “This would be valuable time we could use as a staff.”

Trustee Mike Hickey asked how trustees could consider changing the minutes without some kind of negotiation or discussions with the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers (MHFT).

Both Assistant Superintendent Denise Tate, who heads human resources, and MHFT President Donna Foster said there was no specific designation of middle school minutes in the contract.

“It could be considered a change in working conditions … but the actual contract doesn’t have minutes assigned to middle schools,” said Tate.

School Board meetings are videotaped and broadcast at 8 p.m. on Saturday on Channel 19.

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