Hayden students stage walkout in protest of schedule change | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden students stage walkout in protest of schedule change

Hayden students stand along Jefferson Avenue on Thursday after walking out of school in protest.

HAYDEN — Feeling ignored and concerned about their futures, Hayden High School students came to class Thursday, but they did not stay long.

"I said the Pledge of Allegiance and then we all walked out," junior Thalia Carbajal said. "The idea was to walk out and protest."

The students were aware of protests occurring across the country in response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, but the cause in Hayden was different.

"They're fighting for their reasons, and we're fighting for ours," Carbajal said.

The students and some teachers do not believe their voices were heard when Hayden Superintendent Christy Sinner decided last week to make a significant change to the school schedule.

"We'd be a lot more understanding if they had been open with communicating with us," sophomore Hannah Wilkie said.

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For the past four years, students in the secondary schools, which include middle school and high school, have been on a block schedule with four, 90-minute class periods on staggered days.

Beginning next school year, the secondary schools will revert to a traditional schedule with seven class periods each day.

The high school currently has 123 students, and it appeared more than half of them participated in the walkout.

Students believe the new schedule is less flexible and it will hurt their ability to attend extracurricular activities, participate in multiple sports and take college classes.

"Being able to balance that with a block schedule is very helpful," Carbajal said.

Junior Cassidy Crawford, who is currently taking three college courses, said she is concerned she will not be able to finish her associates degree next school year while still attending classes at the high school.

"I will be stuck in an either-or situation," she said.

On Feb. 12, Crawford addressed the Hayden School Board with a petition signed by 160 people.

"They didn't say anything," Crawford said. "They just thanked me for presenting."

Students said they heard about the schedule change from teachers, who were informed about the changes by an email from Sinner last week.

Hayden High School Principal Gina Zabel said the walkout was organized by students very quietly, and she initially believed it was related to school safety.

"They just want some answers, and that hasn't happened yet," said Zabel, who said there has never been a walkout during her 24-year career with the district.

Zabel spoke to the protestors and said she supported them.

"I said you have every right to do what you're doing; it's your First Amendment right," Zabel said.

Sinner said she believed it was important for student voices to be heard, and she wished the students had more information and facts. She does not plan to change her mind about the schedule.

"The bottom line is I have to do what is best for all of our students," Sinner said.

Sinner said the school district is in a financial crisis, but changing the schedule was not primarily about money, although she estimated it would save the district between $120,000 to $130,000 annually.

Sinner, who started as superintendent in July, said her decision was based on data, research, the interests of all students and test scores related to college and career readiness.

"We need to ensure students are seeing their teachers on a daily basis to receive that education," Sinner said.

Sinner said students will still be able to take college courses.

She also said she had heard from both parents and teachers who supported the new schedule.

Kevin Kleckler, who runs the school's vocational and technical education program, said he was concerned the new schedule would make it impossible for students outside of Hayden to take his welding and automotive classes.

Kleckler is also president of the Hayden Education Association teachers union and said he did not know of any teachers who supported the new schedule.

"We have never had any open dialogue with the superintendent or board of education about this," Kleckler said.

Kleckler and two other teachers on Feb. 12 asked the school board to consider keeping the block schedule.

School Board President Brian Hoza on Thursday said he was aware of teachers who supported the new schedule, and discussions related to changing it were not new. He said he did not feel it was appropriate for the board to micromanage the decision and that the board supported Sinner.

"This didn't fall out of the sky," Hoza said. "I guess I'm disappointed if the staff and students haven't been given that information."

Hoza thinks the walkout could have been prevented if the students had accurate information.

"I think it's probably a sign of the times," Hoza said. "They feel like that's a way to be heard, and that's fine at least so they don't do it to their detriment."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.