The Jaguar Journal

The Student News Site of North Creek High School

The Jaguar Journal

The Jaguar Journal

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7-2-6: The Shift to Six Periods

The last issue of the Jaguar Journal covered the $26 million budget shortfall faced by Northshore School District. Like many other administrations, Northshore has fallen victim to budget cuts, perpetuated by many factors: a lack of enrollment, inadequate funding, and the end of federal COVID-19 relief. The next question becomes the issue of what to do about this crisis.

$26 million is a lot of money. To put it into perspective, that is equivalent to the cost of 23 houses in Bothell, nearly 8700 Nintendo Switch devices, or 4,659,498 Big Macs. Irrefutably, no amount of fundraising can make up this amount. The next step? Reducing costs.

In any business, when profits fall, cutting costs becomes the most viable option. And while the Northshore education system is no corporation, it must do a similar thing in this scenario. So in November of 2023, Northshore School District held a meeting, dubbed the “Budget Study Session,” where they discussed the possible cuts they could make to make up for the $26 million shortfall. Among these options are cutting all elementary school band and orchestra programs; cutting one assistant principal from every high school; stopping the printing of all calendars; and eliminating all no-cut sports from middle schools. The economic benefit of these options, ranging from $20,000 (stopping the printing of calendars) to $780,000 (cutting elementary band and orchestra) each, is minimal compared to the $26 million, and will only have benefits if stacked with other proposed cuts. There is, however, one option that would contribute a hefty $5.8 million to solving the crisis: returning the high school schedule to six periods. 

There are many implications of this decision, each of which will be explained in detail. These implications include the financial implications for teachers, the possible alleviation of a mental burden on students and staff, and the potential backlash that may result from this decision.

Perhaps the most contentious topic of discussion regarding this issue is the topic of financial effects. To illustrate, allow discussion of some quick mathematics: not to dissect the problem with deadly accuracy, but to better understand the possible effects of the cut. 

The makeup of the $5.8 million is not described by NSD. Thus, logical speculation is fair play

One factor in teacher salary is the number of periods; known to staff as “sections;” a teacher has. A teacher with three sections would make less than a teacher with five sections, and so on. Cutting the school day from seven to six periods would mean a loss of sections for teachers with a seventh period, and thus, a salary reduction. In the grand scheme of things, with rising housing and living expenses in Washington, this is nowhere near ideal, but it is a logical outcome.

However, it is not just the reduction in section sizes that may be contributing to the whopping $5.8 million figure; it is the potential Reduction in Force, or RIF, that may occur as a result of the budget cut. Taking into account the four main Northshore High Schools; North Creek, Bothell, Inglemoor, and Woodinville; the $5.8 million in savings can be attributed evenly between the schools. This amounts to $1.45 million per school. The average salary of a teacher in the NSD is $68k. 1,450,000/68,000 = 21.32. In layman’s terms, this means that the $5.8 million may consist of a RIF of 21 teachers per school, or 84 teachers altogether. If not that, then it is the loss of the equivalent of 21 teachers per school.

Allow this to be compiled with data from the government. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 532 secondary school teachers in NSD. This means that a whopping 15 percent of Northshore’s teacher workforce across its 4 main high schools could be laid off. It is a figure that mirrors the massive layoffs in the tech industry earlier this year, contributing to increased job insecurity in the United States. Despite its massive academic and social successes, NSD may not be immune to the unemployment crisis.

So, the financial side of the issue has been deconstructed; the breakdown of the 5.8 million is unknown, but speculation can still take place. What about the mental effects of the shift?

To answer this question, let us first understand proprietary information: the average attention span of teenagers and young adults is five hours. In the NSD, school starts at 8:15 and ends at 3:15, a total of seven hours. Following the typical Monday/Tuesday/Friday high school bell schedule means that by 1 pm, or 5th period, the attention span of students would be running low. By the 7th period, there is no doubt that it is completely gone.

During block periods, the combination of attention spans and long block periods has an even more interesting effect: on Wednesdays, when the school day ends at 1:45, the attention span of the student may have lessened during the 6th period but is not detrimental in the long run. However, on Thursdays, the combination of long periods and classes culminates in an unproductive and lengthy 7th period: an entire 105 minutes of clock watching, attention spans short, and focus nowhere to be found. 

Besides this internal analysis, questioning of students at North Creek was conducted. A group of seniors, who do not have a seventh period, were asked about their attention spans and how well they performed during their seventh class. When asked, “How did you perform academically in your seventh-period class?” North Creek senior Chelsea Yabut said, “I was asleep,” “I was irritated and didn’t want to be there,” and, “I was burnt out.” Senior Ruby Sparkman said that in the latter half of the year, “she didn’t like it,” and that she just wanted the day “to be over.” Other students, such as Kush Bhavsar, said that his attention span is “better at the beginning of the day,” that the four block periods on Thursdays were “awful” and that [seventh period] was “draining and droned on forever.” Sparkman also mentioned that her grades increased when switching from seven to six periods as a senior, but it is unclear if this can be solely attributed to fewer classes and not other factors. The omission of a seventh period, Yabut and Sparkman mentioned, gave them “more time to focus on classes and extracurricular activities,” such as dance and DECA.

It is irrefutably clear that students prefer six, as opposed to seven, periods. The seven-period day is a source of mental fatigue, leads to lost productivity, and is generally disliked by students. But what about the students who liked having seven periods? What do they think?

When asked what they like about having seven periods, Sparkman said that “you can get rid of the core credits faster and allow you to take more electives.” Sparkman also mentioned that she “got all her PE credits done in a year and a half.” The most notable pattern across all responses was the love of freedom the seven-period schedule allows more opportunities to explore electives as opposed to core credits and the potential to eliminate PE credits efficiently.

From an administrative standpoint, the most notable and important benefit of the seven-period schedule is its guarantee of graduation. In Washington high schools, 24 credits are required to graduate. 6 periods x 4 years = an exact amount of 24 credits. Compare this to a seven-period schedule providing 28 credits over four years. 4 more credits. 4 more chances to get it right. 

A six-period schedule also has significant implications regarding the freedom of students to choose their classes. Because every class must count towards their graduation requirements, there is significantly less freedom to pursue personal interests instead of required classes. A student may end up choosing PE over Web Design, or Art over CAD Lab, simply because the class is required. A failure to systematically choose classes would result in students not graduating, which would be catastrophic for the district as it would get even less funding.

So, regarding the mental burden that the six-period schedule would provide, two things ring true: one, students would have significantly less freedom, and two, students would feel less mentally fatigued.

The last topic of discussion is regarding the backlash that may occur from switching to a six-period day. The backlash, if any, would most likely result from recognition of the above factors, most notably the effects on graduation and teacher salary. However, a topic that has not been touched on yet is the elimination of some electives altogether. Some classes that only exist during a seventh period may have to be moved around in the schedule, or eliminated. This would reduce the amount the classes that students can take, and would perpetuate a culture of taking classes out of necessity, not genuine curiosity and passion.

The topic of a six-period day is an incredibly multifaceted issue, with angles from all sides. There is the inevitable lessening of teacher salary; the reduction of freedom students have in choosing classes; the mental fatigue that arises from seven periods; the increased amount of time students have for extracurricular activities; teacher positions potentially being cut altogether; the potential for elimination of certain classes; and a new attitude towards classes and graduating.

A new cultural wave will occur from the change: a shift from taking classes out of curiosity to necessity, one that will irrefutably change the way students look at classes, school, and their choices, one that mirrors the registration era of middle school, one that is now rigid as opposed to free. The attitude of pursuing one’s passions will no longer be able to apply to one’s school education in the way it was before.

Whatever route the Northshore School District takes, there will be broad and rippling repercussions felt by every corner of the community: teachers, students, the administration, and parents. All there is to do is wait and see what costs NSD chooses to cut to make up the $26 million. Only then will anyone know if the district can bounce back from the financial burdens imposed by uncontrollable and inevitable factors.

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