To the editor:

It has been proposed by Jay Schools superintendent Jeremy Gulley to eliminate block and team teaching.

The proposal states that if block scheduling were eliminated, the renovation project at the high school would be cut to $9,930,866, which would come largely from a need for fewer classrooms. The logic follows that fewer classrooms mean fewer teachers in the building, which would lead to teachers losing jobs.

Not only will we lose teachers, but we will also lose educational value in the school corporation. Block scheduling provides the opportunity for students to complete up to 80 credits, whereas period scheduling would only allow 56 credits. Currently, block scheduling allows students to take full advantage of our state-recognized vocational department. In 2017, Jay Schools’ vocational department was named top 5 percent in the state. In vocational classes, students have the opportunity to branch out by trying new things and learning life skills.

With period scheduling, a student working to obtain an academic honors diploma would only have room for one of these classes each year.

Furthermore, block scheduling allows students who have failed a class to retake that class in order to gain that credit, which, generally, is required to graduate. 

When block scheduling was implemented in the 1995-96 school year, there was a significant increase in academic honors diplomas. As education has become more focused on post-secondary educational opportunities, the ability to obtain college credits in high school at a significantly lower cost has greatly increased.

While in high school, I have actually completed the requirements to earn an associate’s degree. This equates to approximately two years worth of college credits. This would not have been possible on a period schedule. If I had been on a period schedule, I would have only received 19 college credits, compared to the 63 I will have by the end of the current school year. I have taken a total of 21 college credit classes at JCHS, made possible thanks to block scheduling. 

Additionally, a period schedule would greatly damage the agriculture department specifically. The ag department has been one of the best in the state for decades, including a closely associated FFA program, which has been pivotal in the lives of so many JCHS students.

If a period schedule would be introduced, the future of our ag program is at stake due to decreasing enrollment from a lack of flexibility in students’ schedules. If this proposal is approved, areas such as work-based learning, early graduation, South Adams machine trades, fire and rescue, health occupations and cadet teaching classes would likely disappear or become increasingly difficult to fit into a schedule.

Students are currently able to enter the workforce while still in high school to start learning skills needed to succeed in their future. More often than not, students land employment with the skills they were able to obtain or through jobs they had while still in high school. 

Mr. Gulley has repeatedly pointed to declining enrollment as the driving reason for the proposals he has made regarding school closures, consolidation and scheduling changes. I believe that going to a period schedule could very likely decrease enrollment even further. One of the greatest strengths of JCHS is the wide range of educational opportunities that students have. This has been a selling point that administrators have touted for years. The seven-period day will reduce these opportunities so drastically that many students and families could look elsewhere for them.  

Having said all of this, I do understand the plea from area agriculturists to not increase tax rates. Coming from an agricultural family myself, I utterly oppose an intended hike. However, we must work to achieve a plan that preserves block scheduling and does not burden area landowners with such a tremendous tax increase.

Therefore, I urge you to take action. Contact your school board member, express your concern or ideas for improvement in Jay Schools, and most importantly, show up at the next school board meeting so the board members must look into your eyes when they cast their vote to save money or cut the educational value your children receive. 

Dillon Muhlenkamp

Rural Bryant