Davenport School Board 1

Davenport School Board members Allison Beck and Bruce Potts listen to discussions of possible school closings during a meeting of the board in this file photo.

The Davenport School Board approved this week a major change to the way students are taught at Central, North and West high schools, moving from a block to a traditional schedule.

The Issue: In November, the board approved a “drastic” plan to cut more than $13 million dollars from the general funds, per the School Budget Review Committee’s order. While the board insisted on maintaining the plan’s fluidity moving forward, one of the cuts included moving the high schools from a block schedule — four, 90-minute classes per day — to a traditional schedule — seven, 50-minute classes per day.

Most of the savings will come from eliminating 20 full-time employees; the annual budget savings are projected between $1.1 and $1.4 million.

The Conversation: Student board member and North High School senior Esmee Belzer spoke out against the changes, citing several discrepancies in the list of pros and cons given to the board.

"I don't think it's worth the money you would save," she said.

The change in schedule, along with a policy change for graduation requirements to accommodate the change, passed. Director Dan Gosa was the only no vote for each; Director Clyde Mayfield was not present.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be as big a savings as has been presented,” Gosa said. “We’ve had that happen a few times, and I don’t want to be in a position where I voted for something that didn’t save what it should have been.”

While Vice President Linda Hayes and Director Julie DeSalvo both indicated they were opposed to the idea, they felt compelled to vote yes because of the district’s finances.

“If we don’t do it, we don’t save anything,” Director Bruce Potts said. His biggest concern, though, was how it would reduce students’ opportunities to take elective classes and explore their interests and strengths.

Next Steps: The new schedule will begin with the 2020-21 school year, and new credit requirements are needed for each graduating class through the transition process; the class of 2024 is projected to be the first year without any block schedules, and will need 22 credits to graduate; 28 credits were possible. The class of 2019, needed 26; 32 were possible.

All of the credits lost are from electives.   

While DeSalvo voted in favor of the change, she said she wanted to make sure the district actually saved money. “I want follow-up,” she said. “I want to see the savings. I want to see that we did what we said we were going to do.”