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Dickinson High School makes schedule change

Dickinson High School is adjusting its class schedule next semester and at least one parent is upset over the change.

DHS students have six hours of class time that will be cut by eight minutes to allow "opportunity time," an extra half-hour before lunch, for struggling students and those who want to advance further.

Class will begin five minutes earlier every morning, each class will be two minutes shorter and time between classes will be shaved, said Ron Dockter, DHS principal.

"What I'm angry about is the fact that Dickinson High School is not even putting this up for a vote to the parents," said Loni Doppler, who has two children attending the school.

Students are required, to go to opportunity time if their grades dip below a "C," Dockter said.

"We're looking to give more time and support to kids to better enable them to succeed -- both students that are struggling and students that are succeeding -- to see if we can help advance them even further," Dockter said. "Our plan is to provide more time and support for our students and to get more time for our teachers to collaborate on assessments and to use those assessments to do what's best for our kids."

The time block was first referred to as 'intervention time" but has been changed to "opportunity time" to better reflect the school's intentions, Dockter said.

Freshman will have a study hall to aid in their transition to high school if they don't go to opportunity time.

"At different times during that study hall, we're going to work on some study skills, some strategies for learning and just simply adjusting to high school life," Dockter said.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors will have a longer lunch if they don't go to opportunity time.

Doppler said the schedule will hinder students.

"We are taking students who supposedly have a difficulty in learning or struggling with some subjects, or whatever, and we're segregating them," Doppler said. "We're giving the other classman a chance to say 'Oh look at you. You need help. You're stupid.'"

Dockter said the new schedule is a more systematic way of doing what is already being done at the school.

"We have kids coming in in the morning, some staying after school," Dockter said. "But we can't reach all of those kids in the morning or after school because of transportation issues, job issues and those types of things."

Rather then putting students in special programs, Doppler wants the school to overhaul the way students are taught.

"There is a need for constant repetition in the way that they teach," Doppler said.

Students jump too quickly from one subject matter to the next in their classes, she added.

Opportunity time will allow students to be taught the same subject matter in different ways to suit their learning needs, Dockter said.

"We want to find what's the best way for each student to learn," Dockter said.

Jess Herauf and Katie Hewson, are in favor of the schedule change.

"It's going to help a lot with sports," Herauf said.

The time will allow them to catch up after sporting events.

"With sports, you usually miss after lunch, so ... you can just come in and get help with it then," Katie Hewson.

Dockter expects there to be between two and 11 students in each opportunity group. Students' progress will be checked weekly and if grades rise above a "D" they can leave the group, he added.