TeWinkle Middle School will switch to 7-period days, giving kids more elective choices

Students leave campus after school at TeWinkle Middle School on a day in January.
Newport-Mesa Unified officials announced Wednesday TeWinkle Middle School will shift to a seven-period day in the 2022-23 school year, while more elective courses will be offered.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Educators would move mountains for the betterment of students, so why not class periods? That was the consensus earlier this week when TeWinkle Middle School administrators informed parents the bell schedule will shift next year to accommodate a seven-period day.

A change in hours on the Costa Mesa campus and the shortening of classes, from 58 minutes to 47, will give kids one more period to fill with an elective course, such as art, publications or engineering. New classes are also to be added next year, including French, Spanish, Art 2 and Engineering Design & Modeling.

While the current regular bell schedule has TeWinkle students attending six classes from 8:45 a.m. to 3:35 p.m., under the new seven-period schedule classes will begin at 8:05 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m.

Parent Laura Van de Merghel participates in a Feb. 15 TeWinkle Middle School forum on elective courses.
Parent Laura Van de Merghel presents ideas for new elective courses brainstormed in a small group during a Feb. 15 forum at a TeWinkle Middle School forum.
(Sara Cardine)

“The addition of a seventh period is more in alignment with other middle schools within our school district, allowing our TeWinkle students opportunities to take additional elective courses,” Newport-Mesa Unified School District spokeswoman Annette Franco wrote Wednesday in an email to families.

The changes follow a series of meetings and conversations among parents, teachers, administrators and district officials that came on the heels of complaints from parents TeWinkle students had far fewer elective choices than their counterparts at other campuses.

Figures showed the campus offered 13 electives, compared to 21 at Ensign Intermediate and Corona del Mar middle schools and 27 at Costa Mesa Middle School.

Additionally, many TeWinkle students are enrolled in the academic support program Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) or AVID Excel, a class that helps English learners accelerate their language acquisition. For them, participation accounted for their single elective choice.

Parents, primarily those with elementary school-aged children whose schools feed into TeWinkle, brought up such disparities to district officials, who convened a forum in February to discuss solutions.

That’s when someone suggested a seven-period day. Principal Dipali Potnis discussed the idea with teachers and school staff, who overwhelmingly approved making the needed changes to give kids one more period.

“I’m already hearing from students they’re excited to be able to take another elective. [And] teachers are stoked,” Potnis said Thursday. “I’m so proud of everybody coming together and making this come to fruition.”

A forum about elective courses at the Costa Mesa campus evolved into a discussion about demographics, declining enrollment and creating parity with schools in Newport Beach.

Costa Mesa resident Michelle Erickson, whose son and daughter attend nearby Victoria Elementary School, regularly communicated with the district and attended the Feb. 15 community forum. She said she was pleased students would be getting more choices next year.

“This is a big step in the right direction. I also think it’s a testament to a public movement,” Erickson said Thursday. “The system can work if the public is engaged and when we have leaders who are listening and they care enough.”

Laura Van de Merghel, whose daughter is a TeWinkle seventh grader and whose son attends third grade at Victoria, said it was distressing to learn TeWinkle students didn’t have the same access to electives as kids on other campuses. While this week’s news is good, she said more needs to be done to bring schools in the Estancia High School zone up to the level staff, students and families deserve.

“I really feel we still have segregated schools, but we’ll take what we can get,” she added. “The next step is, since we’re going to build a theater at Estancia, let’s get drama and music going, or let’s try ceramics — give kids more creative outlets.”

TeWinkle Middle School in Costa Mesa on Friday, May 20, 2022.
Administrators at Costa Mesa’s TeWinkle Middle School informed parents Wednesday the school schedule will shift next academic year to accommodate a seven-period day.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

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