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Changes are in store for Luther Burbank Middle School’s class schedule

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Oscar Macias, principal at Luther Burbank Middle School, and his staff will be implementing a homeroom/advisory period to start each day, which will allow students to take part in social-emotional learning curriculum, sustained silent reading or academic intervention.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

A few small changes may have a big impact at Luther Burbank Middle School when it kicks off the new school year on Monday.

Luther Burbank will debut its revised schedule, which will include a new “homeroom/advisory” period to start each day, followed by six periods of instruction as well as nutrition and lunch breaks.

The advisory period will set aside time for various options, such as sustained silent reading, social-emotional learning and academic intervention.

“It’s all premised behind the idea that I want every teacher on this campus and kids, vice versa, to have a relationship,” said Oscar Macias, the school’s principal.

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Macias was back on campus this past Monday, welcoming teachers and preparing them for the change.

Last year’s schedule included differing lengths of time for each class, six in total, along with a 40-minute lunch and a 13-minute nutrition break. Students were also given 15 minutes of silent reading incorporated into the fifth or sixth periods.

Those 15 minutes of silent reading have been truncated and moved into the advisory periods set for Mondays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the advisory period will include aspects of social-emotional learning and academic intervention, while Wednesdays will be free, up to each teacher’s discretion.

“It’s a dramatic shift in how important it is that we are not just addressing academic needs and goals, preparing students for high school and middle school, but making sure they’re physically and emotionally safe,” said Macias, who added that guidance counselors will be available in the mornings.

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The advisory period is part of a larger adoption of social-emotional learning, Macias said, which consists of four key elements: mindset and goals; values and friendships; thoughts, emotions and decisions; and serious peer conflicts.

The curriculum’s goal is to promote social-emotional skills, positive classroom behavior and academic achievement, while avoiding conduct problems, aggressive behavior and emotional distress.

Nothing changes as far as the start and finish times for most class days. Students will begin school at 8 a.m. and end instruction at 3 p.m. on all days except Tuesdays, when they will finish at 2:15 p.m.

The advisory session will begin at 8 a.m. and last 20 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It will last 19 minutes on Tuesdays.

To accommodate the new schedule, all class times will be uniform, with instruction lasting 53 minutes each period on all days except Tuesdays, when it will last 46 minutes. Also, the nutrition break was trimmed by one minute per day.

Previously, a Monday first period lasted 62 minutes, while the second period was only 53 minutes.

Though Macias said the process has been “three or four years” in the making, there were only hints of what instructors, staff, students and families thought of such a change until last school year when a series of anonymous polls were conducted.

Of the 42 voting members in the Burbank Teachers Assn., 28 were in favor of the reorganization, while 14 preferred the status quo.

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Staff represented by California School Employees Assn. voted 15-7 for the change.

Students and parents represented the largest voting bloc, with children narrowly voting in favor of the change, 292-270, while their caretakers voted 143-62 in support of the revised schedule.

The schedule change was approved by the Burbank Unified school board on May 16.

“I’m a little concerned about the student survey numbers,” board member Steve Ferguson said. “At a minimum, it just means we have to educate.”

He added, “Nevertheless, I think the overwhelming majority of stakeholders are supportive of this.”

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