The Riverside School District 96 School Board officially adopted a middle school model for Hauser Junior High School at its May 15 meeting, a move that was accompanied by parent complaints that district administrators had not done enough to explain the changes to the community.

The board approved the model based on a recommendation from its Education Committee, which used information gathered by the Middle School Study Group to make its own decision. The group was formed in early 2006 to study the possibility of adopting the middle school format at Hauser.

Under the middle school model, the school day for sixth and seventh graders at Hauser would be reorganized into block scheduling, with added teacher planning and academic advisory periods. This format is meant to allow for more interdisciplinary collaboration between teachers, as well as closer interaction between teachers and their students.

Eighth-graders would maintain a schedule closer to the current junior high model, which involves switching classrooms every class period. Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson said this would better prepare them for the transition to high school.

Lamberson also announced that the reformatted schedule would be accompanied by a change in start and stop times at Hauser. Currently, he explained, Hauser starts 12 minutes later than the rest of the schools in the district, at 8:37 a.m. instead of 8:25 a.m., but lets out at the same time at 3:05 p.m. This amounts to 35 fewer hours spent in the classroom by Hauser students over the course of the school year.

To fix this, Lamberson said the Hauser school day in the fall would begin at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:23 p.m. He explained that this better aligns the amount of classroom time between Hauser and the elementary schools, but also helps to stagger traffic near Hauser and Central schools in the morning and afternoon, as well as allows for morning band and sports practices before school.

“It’s really optimal for us,” Lamberson said. “It allows us to maintain the integrity of the schedule.”

As for community response to the board’s actions, while most audience members at the meeting seemed to approve of the middle school model and the changing school hours, many parents criticized the board for what they said was a failure to clearly communicate the planned changes. Many said they had heard about the schedule changes from their children before receiving information from the district.

“There is a feeling out there among a lot of parents that they would like more and more frequent communication,” said Mary Jo Robling, the president of the Hauser PTA.

Board members acknowledged that they could do more to get information to parents, such as putting more information on the district’s website or perhaps sending out e-mails with meeting dates and agendas to district parents. But they also defended their current communication system.

“We have been working on this for two years. We have been very open on this,” board President Cheryl Berdelle said. “I think it’s a great idea to keep communication out there. Frankly, I’m surprised and shocked at how this information gets distorted, because it’s not for our lack of trying.”