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Early reviews positive for new BHS schedule

The first year on a new school day schedule at Brainerd High School is going well, Principal Andrea Rusk told the Brainerd School Board Monday night.

Brainerd High School principal Andrea Rusk updates the Brainerd School Board Monday night on how the high school's transition to a seven-period school day is going. Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd High School principal Andrea Rusk updates the Brainerd School Board Monday night on how the high school's transition to a seven-period school day is going. Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch

The first year on a new school day schedule at Brainerd High School is going well, Principal Andrea Rusk told the Brainerd School Board Monday night.

Two years of work went into finding the new, seven-period schedule, Rusk said. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays are regular seven-period days, she said, while Wednesdays and Thursdays are a little bit different.

Wednesdays and Thursdays feature "what I need" time, or WIN for short. Students can either receive assigned, targeted intervention during WIN time or use the time to participate in enrichment opportunities like clubs or extra time in a music group.

"Anecdotally, it has been a very positive change for our school," Rusk said.

Targeted intervention is when a teacher sees a student struggling with a specific concept, the teacher can assign the student to use a period of WIN time to work on the concept and receive more focused instruction, Rusk said. The two options for students during the 45-minute WIN period are either enrichment or intervention.

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The WIN time scheduling program works with the Skyward mobile app students use on their devices, Rusk said, so students can easily check and see how their WIN time is assigned.

Senior Richelle Bjork said she was hesitant about the new schedule at first but is now a "100 percent supporter." The non-WIN days move quickly, she said, which helps students to stay engaged in their classes. On the flip side, students can get a lot accomplished during the longer class periods on WIN days, she said.

Senior Laura Wadsten said she was excited about the new schedule because she would otherwise have had to take a class during the optional early bird period before the school day. Instead, under the new schedule, she's able to fit all seven of her classes into her schedule. She also likes the flexibility WIN time offers, because she can study, meet with a club or work on student council tasks during the time.

Despite the reviews, the new schedule isn't perfect, Rusk said, and doesn't have 100 percent buy-in at the school. It's important to find ways to measure the schedule's impact on students, she said, instead of relying on anecdotal support.

"We are committed to reviewing our data at the end of first semester and second semester," Rusk said.

The school will look at failure rate, which measures the amount of students failing core academic classes, Rusk said. They'll also get qualitative data from the students on what they see as benefits or disadvantages of the new schedule, she said.

Because of the increased flexibility for students, the high school is seeing increased enrollment in study halls and elective classes, Rusk said. The high school has had to shift resources to meet these needs, she said, but parents have told her they're thankful students have more options for elective classes.

"We've weathered some bumps and we'll continue to address them as we move on," Rusk said.

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It takes courage to introduce change, board chair Tom Haglin said, and he commended Rusk and the rest of the high school staff for going ahead with the new schedule.

"I think that's something that we lack, perhaps, in our district," Haglin said. "And probably in rural districts across the nation is a willingness to change and step out of the norm."

Related Topics: BRAINERD HIGH SCHOOL
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