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Summer School for Morgan Park?

Over the past two years, 132 Chicago Public Schools have changed from the “traditional” school year to “track” scheduling, according to CPS. So far, only one CPS high school is on track scheduling, but many are starting to consider the change.

Morgan Park High School on Chicago’s South Side is one of many schools considering “track” scheduling beginning in the 2010-11 school year.

Non-traditional “track” scheduling gives students the same number of weeks off as summer break, but the 10-week vacation is split up throughout the year. Track scheduling has class in session for six- to eights-weeks at a time, with two- to three-week breaks in between.

The idea was brought to Morgan Park principal Dr. Beryl P. Shingles by parents in the community, whose children attend one of the three elementary schools on track scheduling that feed into the high school. They asked Shingles if she would consider putting the high school on track scheduling to coincide with the elementary schools, making things easier for families with children in both high school and elementary school.

Shingles called Alan Mather, principal of Lindblom High School on Chicago’s West Side, the only CPS high school on track scheduling. She talked with Mather about the benefits of the format.

After many meetings with faculty, CPS administrators and parents discussing the pros and cons of track scheduling, a non-binding vote was taken at Morgan Park High School on Oct. 30. Of the 107 votes cast, 35 percent were in favor of the new schedule, and 28 percent were in favor only if a cooling system is installed in the school, since track scheduling means going to school in the hot summer months, and Morgan Park doesn’t have air conditioning. Thirty-five percent voted against the schedule change.

Peggy Goddard, a community resident and Morgan Park school council secretary, said some parents and students oppose the new schedule because of conflicts students would face in the summer.

“Some of the students work,” she said. “A lot work as lifeguards and work up to Labor Day. Some have internships, some are involved in collegiate programs.”

Mather said Lindblom’s track scheduling decision was discussed for two years. “If the teachers didn’t want it, it wouldn’t work,” he said. “We needed to build support. That’s why we spent so much time planning.”

Lindblom is in its second year on track scheduling and, according to Mather, everyone likes it.

“The students like it better than expected,” he said. “They get more regular breaks. It makes sense. People get burned out. Now they get to recharge regularly.”

One of the struggles that Lindblom faced when they changed scheduling was grading. There were no semesters, making it difficult for the school to collect grades, but eventually they figured it out.

The students didn’t seem to have a problem with the new grading period.

“The grades for the first grading period this year are higher than they were at the same time last year and in the first semester the year before that,” he said.

On Friday, Nov. 6, Shingles and Morgan Park submitted an application to the Chicago Board of Education for track scheduling, but with the installation of a cooling system.

Shingles didn’t spend as long deliberating the idea as Mather did at Lindbloom, but she’s confident that this is what’s best for the school.

“It was presented at LSC meetings, PTSA meetings, and we had enough interest from staff and many of the students are pro,” she said.

The school will not find out if they were approved for track scheduling until late January or early February of next year. Meanwhile, Morgan Park engineer Mike Cox is currently making appointments and getting estimates for the cooling system to be ready if they get the go-ahead.

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