Switch to Traditional School a Tradition for West Jordan Schools
By Tori Jorgensen
West Jordan - Oquirrh Elementary and Columbia Elementary transitioned from a year-round to a traditional calendar this year to accommodate community preferences.
The school board voted for this change back in January, claiming the traditional schedule would unify the elementary schools’ schedules with those of the middle and high schools, making planning easier for families with children in multiple schools. Now that Oquirrh and Columbia completed the transition trend, all schools within West Jordan High School boundaries are on a complimentary schedule.
During a year-round calendar rotation, 25 percent of the staff is “off track,” or on break, at any given time, and teachers can be up to six weeks ahead or behind curriculum compared to their colleagues on different tracks. Katherine Riding, principal of Columbia Elementary, said her staff is able to collaborate more effectively because of the change to a traditional calendar.
“Our master schedule got to be very clear on how we were going to teach everything. Each grade is going to be teaching the same concept at the same time, but it is going to be individualized by the teacher’s talents and the class needs,” she said. “Now everyone can focus on a concept together so we can see how the kids are doing.”
Despite its help in planning, Mandy Thurman, principal at Oquirrh Elementary, said the calendar change led to a major turnover in teachers at her school because teachers who preferred year-round transferred to nearby schools with their preferred schedule.
As teachers transferred from Oquirrh Elementary School, students transferred into it. 150 students transferred into Oquirrh Elementary after the schedule change announcement. The school will serve 760 students on a traditional schedule, while it served only 630 last year on a year-round calendar. Two portables have been added to accommodate the extra students.
Thurman said “cramped quarters” are an adjustment for the faculty and staff, as they are used to having a ton of space. Prior to the schedule change, assistants and aids each had their own classrooms. One of the biggest challenges, Thurman said, is trying to decide if they should keep the class sizes bigger with more classrooms available for teaching specialists, or if they should hire another teacher, reduce class sizes, and consolidate the area for the specialists.
Columbia Elementary revamped their classroom organization as well. Hallways used to be organized by grade, but with the change to a traditional schedule, four classrooms were needed at a time per grade, instead of three, so classes were arranged wherever there was space, and not necessarily by grade level.
Ms. Riding said there was quite a hype about the schedule and classroom organizational change. Around 1500 people attended the open house in late August to see the changes.
Riding said that, although some teachers are sad to lose breaks during the year and many students miss the pride that comes from having their own “track,” she is confident the new schedule will be implemented successfully.
“What I have to remind people is that the year-round school system is not a new thing. It has been around for ages,” she said. “It will work out for us.”