Longer classes, shorter lunch set for Ponderosa

State audit prompts changes at school

Posted 8/20/14

A Colorado Department of Education audit of Ponderosa High School's schedule has resulted in longer class times and a shorter lunch period for the 2014-15 academic year.

State officials are providing limited information about the audit of the …

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Longer classes, shorter lunch set for Ponderosa

State audit prompts changes at school


A Colorado Department of Education audit of Ponderosa High School's schedule has resulted in longer class times and a shorter lunch period for the 2014-15 academic year.

State officials are providing limited information about the audit of the Parker school, and did not directly respond when asked if other Douglas County schools are undergoing the same review. The CDE said the audit is not yet complete.

While the audit may not be finished, it prompted Ponderosa to add five minutes to each Tuesday through Friday class period, and reduce its lunch breaks on those days from 50 to 35 minutes, “so that we are in compliance with CDE's required academic minutes,” according to an early August letter to Ponderosa families from principal Chuck Puga.

“A recent audit by the Colorado Department of Education has precipitated a change in our schedule for the upcoming school year,” Puga wrote. “I understand this is late notice but we have been working with the CDE and our district to make sure we are in compliance.”

Puga did not return calls requesting comment.

The CDE and the Douglas County School District issued a joint statement Aug. 15 that said such audits are commonplace statewide, and are used to determine if students are eligible for full- or part-time funding.

“These audits also review the number of instructional minutes students receive, which also translates into determining if there are enough instructional minutes needed for full-time student funding from the state,” according to the statement.

Ponderosa is among the DCSD high schools still on the block schedule adopted countywide in 2012-13, a change made to save money and decrease class sizes. The block schedule is also known as the "6-of-8," because most teachers hold class during six of the eight periods.

The schedule has been a target of critics, who say it gives upperclassmen long off-periods, reduces instructional time and increases teachers' workload.

The CDE did not respond directly when asked if students on the 6-of-8 schedule may have been short on instructional minutes.

The joint statement notes that high school students' required course loads may decrease as they progress through high school, and that students are allowed scheduling flexibility to meet graduation requirements.

“In Douglas County, some students take full loads of seven or eight courses each semester, while others may select fewer courses to balance their activity, athletic or employment schedule,” according to the statement. “In Douglas County, individual schools monitor student schedules to ensure students remain at full-time status and meet CDE instructional minute requirements.

“CDE conducts these audits of many school districts across the state each year, so DCSD is not the only school district involved in this audit process,” the joint statement reads.

Ponderosa parent Rachael Bunn, whose daughter is a senior, said Puga's letter is worrying.

“I had an internal heart attack,” she said of her response to it. “When they went from 5-of-7 to 6-of-8, we were concerned. We had a very hard time trying to get all her requirements in in the limited amount of hours.”

Her daughter's final-year schedule still leaves her with back-to-back off-periods on some days.

“It's positive in one way because she can get all her homework done during the day,” Bunn said. “The negative is, `Shouldn't she be having some kind of schooling?'”

Former Ponderosa parent Janica Winn didn't like the block schedule, which went into effect when her son was a junior and senior. He graduated in 2014.

“He was off for roughly 2.5 hours in the middle of the day two times a week,” she said. “He made teenager choices. He didn't do his homework. I feel like he was shorted.”

All four district high schools in Highlands Ranch returned to the more traditional 5-of-7 class schedule with the start of this school year.

Parker's other two public high schools — Chaparral and Legend — may revert to the 5-of-7 schedule for the 2015-16 school year.

Castle Rock's Douglas County and Castle View high schools plan to stay on their block schedules.


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To read more about this process, go to https://www.dcsdk12.org/the-rest-of-the-story.

Friday, August 29, 2014

And then there are the times when a school district uses its communications department to spread their propaganda. The 6 of 8 schedule was forced on the schools when the district cut their funding. They proceeded to lie about the "benefits" of the new schedule, despite being warned by community members that instructional minutes would decline. As soon as possible, all 4 Highlands Ranch high schools returned to a 5 of 7 schedule, with no assistance from the district. The schools returned to a better schedule because it was the right thing to do for students. I'm embarrassed by and disappointed in this district.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I agree with HRMom2. The Douglas County School district DOES use it's very high priced Communications Dept. and new Public Relations Dept.(why does a school district need a PR department anyway??) to spread propaganda and to 'spin' stories to try to convince people that their 'reforms' are working, when they clearly are not. They haven't been working for years. Teacher morale is at the lowest it's every been and we have lost long time teachers to other districts. Parent morale is low because we have absolutely no confidence in our school board and district leaders. Students are feeling the effects of it all. The bad 6 of 8 scheduling is terrible for high school students. The district believes in 'choice' but you can't give a teenager the choice of taking classes or not taking classes. Most teens will choose less classes. My oldest just graduated in June and he had way too much "off time" between classes to just mess around, take a long lunch off campus and generally anything except study/learn. 2 days one week and 3 days the next, rotating, my oldest would have a 2 hour school day. WHAT?! He was home more than he was in school...as a Senior in high school that is preparing to go off on his own.

I have a freshman in Legend now, so I hope Legend DOES go back to the old 5 of 7 schedule next year, because I don't want him having the sub-par educational experience that my oldest son did. I hope that the CDE audits all the schools, because some of the changes that our school district have THOUGHT were for the benefit of our kids, haven't been. They are not looking out for our students and they certainly aren't looking out for our teachers. I miss the old Douglas County School District...from when I first moved into it and put my kids in school here back in 2002. We were a great school district then. Since 2008, it's gone downhill and fast. Every year I think things will get better, but they aren't. I can only hope that the schools my kids attend here in Parker (Legend and Cimarron) follow suit with Highlands Ranch and make the school work for the benefit of the kids....not the district.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kudos to Chuck Puga and the team at Ponderosa for doing what is best for the students! As a Ponderosa parent who has been paying close attention to this issue for several years, I am extremely disappointed (but sadly not surprised) that DCSD Communications is lying to the public once again. Their joint statement with CDE appears to be an attempt to place blame on individual schools, when in fact it was the DISTRICT that forced the 6/8 schedule on all the high schools, and it is the DISTRICT that has put so many caveats on funding that some buildings are now stuck with this schedule. I was contacted by the reporter several weeks ago in order to set up a time for an interview on this issue (the interview never occured). At that time, I had already tried to get copies of the audit from both DCSD and CDE, and I shared that I had been told by both that the audit was still in draft stage. Ms. Reuter told me that she hadn't heard back from either group yet, but had contacted both. As I have seen impartial reporting from Ms. Reuter and CCM over the past few years, and have lost track of the number of lies and omissions I see on an almost daily basis from DCSD's "Communications Department," I know which source I believe. A free press is central to a democracy; it is so disappointing that DCSD is trying to control the message so much. I too am embarrassed by this district.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Misuse of taxpayer funds on communication and misinformation is now the norm for Douglas County School Leaders. From Sunshine Law Violations to Fair Campaign Act Violations, we, as a community demand more from elected officials in charge of ensuring a free and uniform public education for all public school students in Douglas County. A school district's communication department with access to personal parent information has no place commenting without truth about actions called into question. At the minimum, this school district leadership should offer a third party parent survey to see if parents, the number one constituents to students, desires for strong and equitable public education is being met. Too many services from reading support to the Arts have been eliminated from our schools while we polish the image of a once superior school district. I worry, as a parent, about the puppy mill status of education that this District's leadership is determined to push on the very students with whom we have entrusted to a school system. The truth is more powerful than the propaganda machine known as the Douglas County Schools Communication Department. Thank you Jane Reuter for sharing the truth. Your professionalism is bar none!

Saturday, August 30, 2014