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Vista Unified considers eight-class schedule proposal

VISTA — A bold new proposal could drastically change the course for high school students.

Rancho Buena Vista High School Principal Charles Schindler presented his case for an eight-class school schedule beginning next year.

Schindler’s proposal during the Jan. 17 meeting was not an action item, so the Vista Unified School District board of trustees do not vote on the matter.

Nevertheless, Schindler said this will give students at Rancho Buena Vista and Vista high schools the same opportunities as Mission Vista and neighboring high schools.

“We started on it three years ago,” Schindler said. “We all agreed our students need more options to take courses. For some of our ninth-graders who need extra support, it (six classes) doesn’t really give them the opportunity to take an elective or give them flexibility in their schedule.”

One reason for the push, according to Schindler, is Rancho Buena Vista is considered an “outpost” school, which loses students to other schools and districts offering more robust academic opportunities.

This dovetails into limiting students’ ability to be competitive and meet college requirements.

If approved, the new schedule would remain at 165 school days, but expand course offerings. As for teachers, they would have six classes with two prep periods.

Students and teachers at Rancho Buena Vista would attend all eight classes on Mondays for 34 minutes, while Tuesday through Friday would shift to a block schedule with four, 90-minute periods.

At Vista High, students and teachers would have a weeklong block schedule, with Monday’s classes 75 minutes and 90 minutes for each class Tuesday through Friday.

The lunch break would at Rancho Buena Vista and Vista would 34 and 32 minutes, respectively, every day.

With the additional classes, Schindler’s proposal includes a total of 20 new full-time teachers between both schools with an estimated cost of less than $2.4 million, which represents 0.9 percent of the district’s total budget.

“We know it’s going to cost money, we realized that and are not naïve,” Schindler said. “The teachers that I have working on it … had some solid arguments in terms of students, equity in the district and opportunity to take different courses.”

Schindler said the presentation to the board of trustees went well and the board will revisit the issue during its Jan. 31 workshop, although he doesn’t know if it will be an action item.

Regardless, this isn’t the first time teachers from Rancho Buena Vista have lobbied for an eight-class schedule. Schindler said a group of teachers presented a similar proposal in 2003, but the initiative failed due to a lack of money, among other issues.

Now, he, along with some of his staff, teachers from Vista High and Vista Unified officials including Superintendent Dr. Linda Kimble, worked on models.

One challenge, though, is facilities, an issue brought up by the board, along with the additional cost.

Schindler said he knew it would cost money, but looks at it as an investment in the future of those students and the district. As for the facilities, some electives, such as photography or robotics, require more specific needs in the classroom, thus potentially limiting some shared classrooms.

In his presentation, Schindler lists an aggressive timeline with implementation starting at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

However, he said it would more likely be at least another full school year before beginning to give the schools and district an adequate amount of time to prepare.

“I’ve always cautioned that this takes time,” Schindler said. “Most schools who I know have gone in this direction have had a full planning year. A lot of high schools in North County have moved to schedules that allows their students flexibility.”