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South Valley Journal

Schools Avoid Year-Round Schedule with Pilot Program

Oct 06, 2016 02:49PM ● By Tori LaRue

B-track students at Riverside Elementary finish their school day while the other half of their class heads home for the day. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

With the population continuing to grow, two Jordan School District schools implemented a pilot school schedule which allows them to enroll more students without implementing a year-round schedule. 

Bluffdale and Riverside elementary schools switched to a modified, nine-month schedule at the start of the year where A-track students, known as “early birds,” arrive at school an hour earlier than the B-track students, known as “later gators.” At the end of the day, the later gators stay in class for an hour after the early birds leave. The program gives all students the same amount of time in the classroom while giving teachers smaller class sizes for two hours a day. 

“Year-round is tough on families often, but we can expand the capacity of the school this way by 20 percent,” said Sandy Riesgraf, the district’s director of communications. 

Bluffdale and Riverside elementary schools were selected for the pilot program because of their overflowing student populations and their locations. Riverside’s student population is a walking community where buses are only used for special education, while Bluffdale’s logistics are more difficult. The students’ homes are spread across the city, reaching the Utah County border.

“We’ve got the hardest school and the easiest school to work with for this program,” Superintendent Patrice Johnson said. “We realize if we can do it for these schools, we can do it at any of them.” 

This is the first time Bluffdale Elementary has not been on a year-round schedule since its construction 20 years ago. Given the school’s population of 990 students, Johnson said a normal traditional schedule wouldn’t work.

The modified traditional schedule will ensure that children don’t miss out on opportunities from being off track, according to Bluffdale office staff. Jenny Ince, head secretary, said she believes the change will decrease scheduling conflicts for families who have children in traditional middle schools and high schools and will improve communication between teachers who used to be on different tracks.

Heather Prows, a Riverside parent, said she likes the modified traditional schedule because the school is less congested during drop-off and pick-up times. She said she had no complaints up to that point about the change of schedule.

“I had concerns about the program at first,” Prows said. “Mostly, I needed my job to be at the same time as my daughter’s school, but we are able to work it all out.” 

The Riverside population has grown over the past few years, so they’ve installed nine portables on the school’s property, but even that wouldn’t be enough to house its 803 students on a traditional school schedule. When administrators shared the idea of the modified-traditional schedule with teachers, they were thrilled, said Riverside Principal Ronna Hoffman.

“We are able to provide for them every teacher’s dream,” Hoffman said. “They have half of their class, so very small classes on either end where they can really target the specific needs of the kids. Every teacher loves that, and because of our schedule, we are able to pay them more.” 

The schedule’s also opened up times for after-school programs. Riverside now offers computer, STEM, science, PE and music classes during the first and last hour of the school day. 

The Jordan School district patterned its modified-traditional schedule after a similar program in the Alpine School District. If the schedule is successful at Bluffdale and Riverside, district officials will look into using it within more schools.