- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The Anchorage School District has told local high school principals to prepare to add an extra period to the day in the next school year, giving students seven classes instead of six.

The school district is bracing for budget cuts, and educators said adding an additional class would allow schools to do more with less. It also would shorten the length of classes and add additional students per day for teachers, the Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/gWGMZA) reported.

Next year’s budget will be released next week. It includes about $23 million in cuts.

Over the next two years, the school district needs to cut $49 million.

Those cuts will translate into the loss of more than 200 positions, including teachers, unless the district gets a surprise increase in state funding, district spokeswoman Heidi Embley said.

Administrators have known as early as December that moving to a seven-period schedule was on the table, East High School Principal Sam Spinella said.

The news has raised concerns among teachers about fitting lessons built into an already crowded curriculum. There also are concerns about burnout and adding to grading work many already take home.

Eagle River High School art teacher Jacob Bera said having fewer educators teach more classes will allow students to return to school with the same course offerings available despite any layoffs.

“We all get the challenges,” he said. “I think we understand why the Anchorage School District is doing this. From our perspective, every teacher is going to have more kids on their workload. That’s more kids competing for your time. Say you’re an English teacher and grading essays — now you’ve got 20 more to grade.”

Diamond High School Principal Cheryl Guyett said that because school hours wouldn’t change, a seven-period schedule means cutting about 30 minutes from each class over the course of a week.

Guyett and Spinella said they believe the directive presents opportunities as well. An extra class could mean more time for flexibility in scheduling electives and for remedial work.

Spinella is optimistic about changes ahead.

“Yes, it means teachers are going to have to teach another class,” he said. “Could it do something for us? I think it can. We don’t really know unless we try it.”

It’s not clear how teacher layoffs and a proposed seven-period schedule could play out in middle schools, which already have seven classes a day. The district has said elementary schools likely would see larger class sizes.

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