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Scores of parents express concerns over proposed Nordhoff High schedule changes at parent meeting Monday; school board discusses issue Wednesday, March 11

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Austin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter
Ojai Unified School District held a parent meeting at Nordhoff High School Monday evening to discuss the proposed schedule change reducing the number of periods in a school day from seven to six at Nordhoff.
The change would apply to students in 10th through 12th grades next school year, then all grades the year after. 
Watch Ojai Valley News livestream of Monday's parent meeting at: 
The school board will take up the issue at its Wednesday, March 11, meeting that starts in open session at 5:30 p.m. in the school board room, 414 E. Ojai Ave. The schedule change was not on the first school board agenda sent Friday; it was added to the agenda on Saturday as an “information” item; and changed to an action item on the agenda on Sunday.
The school district announced the schedule change in Parent Square — an OUSD online communication — on Thursday.
The stated reason for the change is to reduce the $1.1 million budget deficit for the 2020-21 school year, which district administrators said is due to increased costs and flat school funding. The schedule change will make up approximately $200,000 of that deficit.
OUSD Superintendent Tiffany Morse said: “We could close an elementary school, which we have looked at in the past, and, frankly, we don’t have time to do for next year. We could raise class sizes at the elementary level, which we don’t have time to do. That’s negotiated, also the elementaries have taken a lot of the cuts. Because our declining enrollment really started in elementary school, they have been cutting and cutting and cutting.”
The Ojai Federation of Teachers, the local teachers’ union, has been asking administration to look at the high school schedule for years, Morse added.
There were more than 50 concerned students and parents in attendance at the meeting at Nordhoff’s cafeteria, with many questions about the changes. Nordhoff High School Principal David Monson announced the meeting via Parent Square on Saturday.
Morse said: “When we did the rollout of this change, we could’ve done a better job. I know we could’ve done a better job. We have reasons for the way that we did it. In retrospect, knowing what we know now, we would’ve done it differently.”
She stated later in the meeting: “I understand that we should’ve been more collaborative. I also think that this is a choice that you don’t want to make. We have to make choices that are not easy and that you would not choose. I wouldn’t choose them if I didn’t have to make them. We cannot compete with what a private school can offer. If you can pay $50,000 to a private school, you can have an extra elective. You could pay us $50,000 for a private school, we could have extra electives.”
If approved by the school board, the schedule change would make cuts in classes that are under-enrolled, or under the 35 average class size. It will impact sports, band, arts and other seventh-period courses. 
Currently, students often graduate with an excess of 280 credits or more when they only need 225, school administrators said. A six-period day over the course of four years equals 240 credits, and meets all student pathway goals, they said.
Assistant superintendent Sherrill Knox said: “We don’t want to cut electives. We don’t want to cut all of these courses that are seen as part of the rich, robust programming here at Nordhoff. We value music; we value the arts. We also realize that there is an additional need to make sure that we somehow maintain and sustain that rich programming on our site. That’s where these progressive options can help give us solutions.”
The two main options the district is offering is summer school and online courses. The online courses would include health, geography, history and world language courses. 
The summer school courses, contracted with a state charter school, include women’s studies, digital video basics, stop motion animation, early childhood development, college and career foundations, and drawing/painting/composition.
Parents in attendance pushed back against the plan for students being forced to pick between core courses and athletics or arts. Nordhoff Principal Dave Monson said: “We have a Cadillac program here, but we just don’t have the Cadillac finances anymore to be able to offer everything that we have in the past. My own kids are impacted in this, so I don’t love the option. It is not educationally ideal, but in terms of our finances, this is a way that we have to look at being able to preserve as many of these as possible.”
Morse said the reason the program was rolled out so quickly was because the second interim budgetary numbers came out on Feb. 19. She said: “Our board has to approve the second interim report Wednesday night. If we don’t have a plan for cutting $1.1 million, a solid plan, the county will give us either a qualified or negative certification. The negative certification, the state will potentially come in and take over the school district.”
Some students, she said, will have the opportunity to file a waiver to continue on a seven-period schedule.
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