New Committee Gives Students Voice and Choice

By Mia Herdeman, Current Staff

For the first time in decades, student voices will drive major changes at the West Bend High Schools.

Jennifer Potter, the WBHS executive principal, is determined to enhance student voices by including them in a new committee that will review how WBHS runs its daily schedule. In January, Potter sent out an email to a small group of teachers asking them to recommend students with strong leadership skills. Thirteen students have since joined Potter, other office staff, and some teachers to consider changes to building operations.

This week members of the committee visited surrounding schools to observe how they structure the daily class schedule.

The group divided to go to six different schools. Monday, a small group went to Nicolet High School. Tuesday, a different group went to Cedarburg High School. Wednesday, a group went to Grafton and Port Washington High School. Finally, a group went to Hartford and Slinger High School on Thursday.

East sophomore Dakota Gunnare was among those who went to Grafton and Port Washington High Schools. She reports feeling incredibly welcomed and noticing a strong sense of community. 

“They all seemed to know each other and have a really casual relationship with staff,” Gunnare said.

She also admired Grafton’s block schedule, where each class is 90 minutes every other day. 

“Students from our school seem very resistant to it but the students and staff at Grafton love their block schedule,” Gunnare said. “I like this better for a few reasons. They could fit eight classes, as well as 40 minutes of what is essentially Flexi (student resource time) at the beginning of every day.”

Gunnare said that Grafton students reported having basically no homework and being relatively not stressed, which also appeals to her.

Those thoughts were echoed by West sophomore Rhys Chesick, who visited Cedarburg High School Tuesday. She says the school felt very unified and students were immersed in their work.

“They also offered a late start to juniors and seniors two days out of the week as an incentive, which I feel is a good way to breeze through the school week,” Chesick said. “The students expressed that by Wednesday of their school week, they were already aware and prepared with the rest of their work for the week.”

Dr. Randy Daul, who joined the WBHS administrative staff last summer, says that this committee is focused on what is most efficient and successful for both students and staff.

“It’s not just staff members who are here and experiencing what is happening at the high school but it’s a student’s experience,” Daul said.

Potter mentioned that one aspect of the schedule that concerns her is how incoming ninth graders struggle to adapt to the current WBHS schedule. She is open to the idea of giving ninth graders their own schedule separate from the rest of the grade levels.

The committee will next meet on March 21 to discuss what was observed and consider what might be implemented at WBHS.

(Top image: The West Bend High Schools’ daily bell schedule for the 2022-2023 school year.)

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