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CHEYENNE – As Laramie County School District 1 prepares to submit its school reopening plan to the state Monday, a petition opposing the new class schedule proposed for Central, East and South high schools is gaining traction on Change.org.

The petition, which had more than 1,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon, opposes the proposed 4x4 learning plan, where students will take four courses one semester and four in another, instead of completing eight courses over an entire school year.

While district officials say the step is a temporary switch and aims to protect students from COVID-19, concerned students and parents have voiced worries about elective classes like band and debate, as well as AP and IB courses that have exams at the end of the year and can translate to college credits. The split semester would put the responsibility of reviewing coursework for those exams on teachers and students.

Created by LCSD1 student Sophia Glennie, the petition states, “This places double the workload on students.

Students who play sports and other after-school extracurriculars will not have time to review previous semester work, and the review resources that the district is recommending are not free. This, combined with the double workload, puts low-income students who need to work, students that support their families on farms and ranch land, and students who do not have access to technology at risk for falling behind.”

According to LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown, the decision to switch to a 4x4 schedule was made after extensive research, using resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends keeping students in smaller groups to limit contact, which is more plausible under the 4x4 model.

In addition, Brown said one of the biggest complaints from students while remote learning earlier this year was the stress of managing eight courses remotely.

“There’s a large possibility that at least one or some of our schools may have to do (remote learning),” Brown said, noting that the 4x4 schedule would ease the course load stress if classes do shift online due to a coronavirus outbreak.

And while the district sees the benefits for this temporary adjustment, Brown recognized there will still be some issues to overcome.

For year-long electives like band, speech and choir, the switch raises questions about scholarships and competitions, though Brown said the kids will be able to participate in competitions in whatever form they happen this year.

If a student participates in multiple elective courses, however, Brown said they may have to drop some to make room for core classes.

After signing the petition, LCSD1 parent Kimberly Wood wrote, “My daughter will have to choose to exclude some of the electives she loves because they are year-long pursuits.”

A number of residents who signed the petition also voiced concerns about high-achieving students in AP classes, saying that the kids should be able to explore their passions all year long.

In the petition, Glennie wrote, “College prep classes, such as AP or IB, face an end of the year cumulative exam that can give college credit, and by removing a semester of study, the district is drastically decreasing success within these higher level classes. The push for outside help also places stress on teachers, who now have to teach one semester and review another at the same time.”

Though the school year will look different from anything in recent history, with kids donning masks and teachers switching classrooms, the principals of the three high schools assured students and parents that they’d do everything in their power to make the best out of this situation.

South High Principal Phil Thompson said, “It’s a change. We will keep up with what the Health Department says; our main concerns are student safety and creating the best possible learning environment for them. Everything’s changing every day, but we think we and our staff are up to the challenge.”

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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