The Harbinger Online

New Schedule Limits Seminar Opportunities

Junior Jake Lanon is in the middle of preparing for district band and orchestra auditions. Being a member of the SME band, he uses his seminar time to practice percussion. Because of mass schedule changes this year in the Shawnee Mission School District, students only have one seminar session per week–and for Lanan, that means less practice time.

“It’s really hard to come in after school because I’m doing stuff after school and it just makes it a lot harder to practice,” Lanan said.

Both students and teachers at East are finding it difficult to adjust to having only one seminar each week. In addition to after school sports and extracurricular activities, students who once had the option of finishing work in seminar, have more homework each night and less time to meet with their teachers. The teachers have more classes to teach in addition to larger classes.

Principal Karl Krawitz feels it is unfortunate that the students don’t have as many opportunities to seek additional help as they did last year. He said that when they had to reduce the amount of time available to students, they were forcing them to make other decisions. This is not something he encourages and hopes that there isn’t a decrease in students’ grades.

“We ought to provide students today with more opportunities just based upon the complexity of what their educational lives are today,” Dr. Krawitz said.

Sometimes students don’t have access to their one seminar because of pep assemblies or lectures in the auditorium.

“Having two [seminars] was much better,” sophomore Leslie Flores said. “Now they aren’t very good and aren’t as useful to me.”

In previous years, students used their seminars to make up labs that they could only complete while in the building, homework, or seek additional help from their teachers. This was possible because they had two seminars to work with–one on Tuesday and one on Thursday.

“Seminar is the best time I can take tests,” senior Seth Berkbuegler said.

Berkbuegler believes that, in the long run, his grades might be affected because of the minimized amount of seminar time.

When the schedule was four block days and one seven-period day, the International Baccalaureate (IB) class Theory of Knowledge was taught during the two seminars. Before East made the switch to block in the 2008 and 2009 school year, it was taught before school at a “zero hour,” in which students were expected to be at east at 6:40 a.m. IB coordinator Rebecca Murphy believes that this was a factor preventing students from attempting an IB education. Now that there is only one seminar a week, IB students might have to come to school in the evenings or have a seminar class on Saturday mornings.

Murphy felt that every student put their seminar time to good use last year and that the challenged learners had their needs met at every level in the building by being able to have more contact with their teachers. Now, she feels that the seminars have been turned into more of an activity period, rather than an academic period.

“I wish that we didn’t have to take away the amount of hours we had for academic support,” Murphy said.

Since a large number of students at East are involved with after school activities, their options of meeting with a teacher are reduced.

When students were assigned group projects, they always had seminar to meet with their peers. Having the seminar late in the week, rather than in the beginning, is an issue according to sophomore Anna Jones. A lot of assignments are assigned on Monday and due later on in the week. Because she has assignments due late in the week, Jones doesn’t think it’s very logical to have her one seminar on Thursday.

Jones also had a difficult time making up a lab in her chemistry class. Being sick with pneumonia the day before, she had no choice but to come in early. If there was still a seminar on Tuesdays, she could have made it up then. Waiting until Thursday was not an option because it was too long of a wait. Her teacher, Mr. Ogdon, had other students to help that morning and couldn’t give his full attention to Jones. She was late to her first hour and wasn’t confident in her work.

According to English teacher Kristin Fry, the cut back of seminars is “not so bad.” Fry believes that the seminars last year were too long. They were three hours a week and she observed that some kids didn’t use their time properly: some slept, played video games or listened to music. Fry feels that having fewer seminars encourages kids to get in the healthy habit of doing their homework.

In past years, seniors were given the choice of leaving school early on seminar days. This year, however, it is mandatory that they remain in class. This hasn’t stopped students from breaking that rule and leaving school early.

Jody Gustafson, an office personnel in charge of checking the attendance of students, gets more calls from parents excusing their children on seminar days. On Thursday, Sept. 22, around 80 students were pulled from school by their parents after 12:30 p.m. with the excuse that they had doctor’s appointments. That morning, Gustafson had received 40 notes from students stating that they were excused to leave that afternoon.

Murphy is confident that the lack of seminars will not hurt the grades of students.

“If you’re motivated academically, you’re going to make it work whatever schedule you’re in,” Murphy said.

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