Dear Benicia Community,
It is hard to believe this school year is drawing to a close. I am proud of our efforts as we have accomplished a great deal in the pursuit of our vision which states: BUSD – Where all students achieve at their highest potential in an engaging, inspiring and challenging learning environment.
On the curriculum and instruction side of the house, you will see two significant changes at the high school, one being the new modified block schedule that will start this fall, and the change in graduation requirements that will start with next year’s eighth grade (Class of 2022.) Let’s start with the schedule change.
New Schedule for the High School: We are excited to announce, after a two-year process of researching, gathering feedback, visiting other high schools, and working with teachers for needed approval under their contract, we have a new bell schedule that we will be implementing for the 2017-18 school year. While there is no perfect schedule, we believe these modifications will help to enhance the overall teaching, learning, and social, emotional experience for our students. The new bell schedule will begin with the new school year in August.
The new schedule continues the 8:00 a.m. start time and is a modified block schedule – with three traditional six period days a week, and two block period days. The block period days include three classes on each day, and an Access Period where students are able to work on homework and projects, access teachers for help, make up tests, attend workshops and engage with guest speakers provided by our Counseling Office and College & Career Center.
Other changes in the new schedule include longer passing periods to allow students more time to transition between classes and are intended to decrease interruptions during class time for personal needs. Students end their day at different times based on the type of day in the schedule. On traditional days, students will be released at 3:05 p.m., as they are now. On the two block days, students will be released at 2:35 p.m. There will be ten CPT (Curriculum Planning Time) Fridays during the school year with a release time for students at 1:59 p.m.
For our Farmar families, we will need to adjust the start and end times to some degree and will share this information with everyone shortly.
New High School Graduation Requirements: In the ongoing effort to fully prepare our students for college and career choices, the Board passed new graduation requirements that will begin with the next year’s eighth grade (Class of 2022). These graduation requirements are intended to ensure our students are prepared to pursue the greatest number of options available to them upon graduation, and that our educational programs are in alignment with the Desired Characteristics of a Benicia Graduate.
Essentially, the changes include an additional year of math (from two to three), and of science (from two to three), to ensure that all students achieve the California Common Core Standards in Math and the Next Generation Science Standards, and obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for ever-increasing job requirements, college placement requirements, and apprenticeships in our region.
Further, the current graduation requirements call for the completion of either one year of a fine arts elective or one year of a World Language course. The new requirements include both one year of fine arts and two years of World Language. The new graduation requirements also include a replacement of the current Healthy Living course with a course to be completed in the ninth grade year titled, Get Focused. This is a College-and-Career readiness course that introduces the Get Focused-Stay Focused curricular program students will use throughout their high school career with us.
With the newly adopted graduation requirements, students will maintain one or more spaces in their (example student schedule) at each grade level for an elective course. We strongly encourage students and parents to discuss and work with counselors to plan courses each year that best suit students’ areas of interest and future plans. We are also looking into ways to expand our current structure to allow students increased opportunities to take elective courses and be involved in our various programs as we roll up the new graduation requirements with the Class of 2022.
We believe the new graduation requirements represent a positive and robust systemic change for BUSD. To ensure successful implementation, we are carefully analyzing areas where students may need additional support. Each year, we go through an intensive LCAP\Strategic planning process where we seek input from parents, staff, and students. We use this feedback, along with the analysis of local and State data, to develop a yearly plan designed to support students as they progress through the grade levels.
Solar Project: I am also excited to announce the Board recently passed our Proposition 39 energy efficiency and generation plan. (It is important to note this project is not part of the Measure S Bond and is funded by Proposition 39 dollars, an interest-free California Energy Commission loan and a low-interest Clean Renewable Energy Bond.)
Careful analysis of expenditures and cost savings shows a $7.5 million energy savings to the District over a twenty-five year period, with savings realized in the first year and every year thereafter. This is a significant cost savings for the District, of which we wanted to take full advantage. There is an educational component as well, which I believe students will find interesting and exciting, whereby science curriculum can include investigations in solar energy. Construction of the solar project is projected to begin this Fall.
Bond Update: We continue make excellent progress with our Measure S Bond projects. At the June 15th Board meeting, we will discuss our Measure S efforts to date, and the next projects to be started in the Facilities Master Plan. While our Facilities Master Plan has an estimated cost of $130 million, we are currently applying for Proposition 51 funding with the hopes of adding to our $49 million bond allocation to help complete as much of the Facilities Master Plan as possible. We continue to plan the next series of projects and will be discussing this, and our progress to date, at the June 15th Board meeting.
The Benicia Unified School District extends its gratitude for the passage of Measure S and the tremendously positive impact these needed dollars are having on our facilities.
Online Registration for the 2017-18 School Year: In an attempt to streamline our registration processes, and in response to parent feedback, the registration process for this coming school year will be online. Later this month we will send out details regarding the process to ensure a smooth transition.
I hope this school year has been happy and productive for your children and I greatly appreciate your partnership in this most important journey that you entrust to us.
Dr. Charles Young