July 1, 2019
Dear PV Families,
I hope this summer is treating you and your family well!
On behalf of our faculty and in the spirit of continuous improvement, I am excited to announce some refinements to our school program and schedule for the 2019-2020 school year.
You can find our new calendar for the upcoming year (please note the two week spring recess that allows for a week longer summer) and our new daily schedule here.
I hope that the Frequently Asked Questions below will answer any questions but if not, feel free to reach out to the office which opens July 12th at 9 AM. Also, Assistant Principal Blazer and I will be the speakers at the first PTA General Meeting of the year in August to discuss our new schedule.
Just a friendly reminder our next school year starts on Wednesday July, 17th.
See you later this month and we look forward to another great year!
Frequently Asked Questions
How is this new schedule better for students?
-An “essential” interest identified by our stakeholders was the development of social emotional skills and health.
This new schedule will provide time for teachers to do more with students in this area during advisement. IUSD already uses the Second Step curriculum at some grades and that will be the primary tool teachers and students will use together.
-The other essential interest identified by our stakeholders is a schedule that is flexible and meets all students' needs and interests in preparation for post secondary and beyond.
Every IUSD high school has a version of the block schedule and this new schedule aims to better prepare our students for high school and beyond. Extended learning activities (e.g., science labs) will be easier to facilitate on block days (Thursdays and Fridays).
-The average start time of middle school in IUSD is 8:19 AM with most IUSD middle schools starting at 8:30 AM. Our previous schedule started school at 8:00 AM. There is a growing body of research and literature that a later start time is better for older students. Our new schedule will feature a start time for middle school of 8:25 AM.
-These new recess and lunch times minimize the overlap between the three groups (1st-3rd, 4th-5th, and 6th-8th) thereby increasing our supervision per student and allowing us to further tailor special events and lunch time activities.
Why the change?
Plaza Vista started as an elementary school in 1999. The plan was always to have PV be a K-8 school and when the middle school grades were added, the middle school schedule was built around the existing elementary schedule. Because 1st-3rd grade, 4th/5th grade, and 6th-8th grade all have seperate recesses, lunches and PE times, the best possible middle school schedule at the time was implemented. (Kindergarten and transitional kindergarten also have their own recesses but they have their own play/snack area.) The constraints of the already existing elementary schedule gave rise to some atypical features in the middle school schedule including having breaks during some classes.
Our school population has evolved since 1999 as have our students’ needs. Our middle school staff realized about a year and a half ago our current program may need to be revisited and improved if possible.
What was the process to decide this change and who was involved?
In July of 2018, a task force was convened that the principal facilitated. The task force had teachers from every core department of our middle school along with our librarian, counselor, and assistant principal. The task force got input from stakeholders, including;
Associated Student Body Students
PTA Executive Board Parents
The process of the task force’s work was “Interest Based” out of the Harvard Negotiation Project and the book Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.
The tenants of the book and the process are:
Which staff members were on the task force and how were they selected?
Participation was voluntary and included James Parker, Facilitator (Principal), Rick Blazer (Assistant Principal), Amanda D’Avila (English), Emily Knutson (Librarian), Shawn Gillespie (Science), Dana Parola (Counselor), Jaime Salverson (Mathematics), Sinan Saul (HIstory), Mellinda Toro (Science)
What did the task force do?
-The task force spent a year outlining the story of Plaza Vista.
-The task force looked at assessment data of Plaza Vista and other IUSD schools.
-Relevant research and literature on secondary programs was assembled and reviewed.
-Each task force member “shadowed” a student for a day to learn more about the PV student experience at the middle school level. The task force selected different types of learners/students.
-A list of interests for each stakeholder group (students, parents, and staff) was created.
-Those interests were then force ranked by our task force, our PTA Board, and our Associated Student Body (ASB) students. From that force ranking, our “objective criteria”/rubric was created to judge options.
-Options were created from the interests (approximately 100).
-The task force looked at all IUSD secondary schedules and secondary schedules in other districts.
-A list of questions was created.
-The task force conferred with a middle school principal from Newport Mesa Unified.
-Five “final” options, including our 2018-2019 program, were then judged by our ASB, PTA Board, and middle school teachers against our rubric with the assistance of a pros/cons document. The results of the “voting” is here. As you can see, the lowest scored option in light of stakeholder interests was (what was) our “current program”.
-The highest scoring option was then taken to elementary leadership and leadership from all grades coordinated our 2019-2020 schedule.
My middle school student walks to school with an elementary sibling. What can middle school students do at PV before school starts at 8:25 AM?
-Our library will be open for middle school students from 8-8:25 AM.
-We will be piloting having breakfast available for all students in our cafeteria starting at approximately 7:45 AM. If parents would like to confidentially apply for free or reduced priced meals, please visit the parent portal and click on the Titan icon or visit family.titank12.com.
-We are exploring the possibility of “zero” period class option(s) for second trimester that could run approximately 7:30 AM-8:20 AM.
How will this new schedule be evaluated?
The task force will collect survey data from students, parents, and teachers. Additionally, student achievement data will be examined. The task force will also be convening throughout this coming year to make recommendations for possible refinements.
I only have an elementary aged student(s), how does this affect me?
By virtue of adding the block schedule at the middle school level, primary (1st-3rd grade) start/end times have shifted to:
-Maintain separate recesses, lunches, and PE times.
-Keep the three instructional blocks (before recess, before lunch, and after lunch) as balanced as possible.
-Maintain as much instructional time in the AM as possible.
Our new start time for 1st-3rd grade is 7:55 AM.
4th/5th grade recesses and lunches have shifted while start times remain unchanged and end times are nearly the same. K and TK times (both “AM” and “PM”) remain unchanged.
What are some of the factors that affect the development of Plaza Vista’s schedule?
-Keeping 1st-3rd grade, 4th/5th grade, and 6th-8th grade recesses, lunches, and PE classes separate for safety reasons (to avoid overcrowding at the lunch tables, on the playgrounds, maximize supervision per student, etc.).
-For grades 1st through 5th, keeping three instructional blocks (before recess, before lunch, and after lunch) as balanced as possible.
-Ensuring instructionals assistant are available to help during instructional blocks as much as possible.
-Keeping PE classes for all grades (and science for grades 4 and 5) in the afternoon as much as possible so more academic instructional time can occur in the morning.
-Having enough time in instructional blocks for 4th and 5th grade science and music.
-Ensuring our music teaching staff can travel safely to Vista Verde for their other teaching assignments in the late morning and afternoon.
-Maintaining start/end different times (for 1st-3rd grade, 4th/5th grade, and 6th-8th grade) to limit congestion on walking and vehicle routes.
-Maintaining some common teacher preparation time in the afternoon so teachers from all grades can collaborate and receive training.