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Parents, staff, and students at Horlick High School as part of a national walk-in sponsored by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools voiced opposition to the block scheduling/academy implementation plan the Racine Unified School District is rolling out.

About 50 people participated in a rally in front of the school at 6:30 a.m. at Horlick High School where they talked about why they loved public education, how they needed to stay united as a community and walked into school together.

Rallies were also held at JI Case High School, Mitchell Middle School, the Racine Early Education Center, Washington Park High School, Walden III High School, Janes Year-Round School, Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School, and Olympia Brown, Red Apple, and Roosevelt elementary schools.

Aaron Eick, president of the REA-REAA teachers’ union, has criticized the district’s block scheduling/academy implementation plan saying that he would like to see the plan implemented in the 2017-2018 school year, not the 2016-2017 school year.

“The biggest problem is that teachers, parents and students feel isolated in their fight to get properly educated,” Eick said. “And that starts with a love of each other. That’s what we need to have first to have a quality education and to create great schools.”

The school district has looked at implementing a block schedule/academy model since Sept. 2014, but officially rolled out the plan in December. The model features academies that focus on business, engineering, arts and sciences and several pathways that students can choose. However, students would have eight 90-minute periods divided over the course of two days versus eight 51-minute periods in a day. The new schedule would also allow for more electives.

The goal of the changes is to give students with pathways to colleges and careers. However, some teaching staff, students, and parents have voiced the need for the school district to gain more feedback from the community and staff before implementing it.

Sheila Lietzke’s daughter Kristen Lietzke is a freshman at Horlick High School. She came to the rally because the issue is important to her and her daughter.

“I feel like the whole district is not listening to the children. I vote and I also pay taxes. So I think as a parent I need to be their voice with them and not for them, but be there to support them because sometimes I feel like they are just glossed over,”

While the district has held a series of meetings to roll out the plan, Sheila criticized Racine Unified School District Superintendent Lolli Haws as Sheila wanted more details on how the block scheduling system would work at a meeting Haws spoke at on Tuesday.

“If you want buy-in from the community, then go to the community first and not after the fact,” she said. “I think it’s probably going to be a good thing. But the lack of communication is the issue.”

Kristen also said she feels like there has been a lack of communication in how the district has communicated its intention to start block scheduling next fall. 

“Our voices have not been heard,” she said. “They need to stop, wait and listen.”

This is the same mantra voiced by members of Racine’s Teachers’ union, the REA-REAA. To Kristen though the phrase means that the board needs to stop, wait and listen to her wishes, and listen to what the students think. 

“The block scheduling is an issue. With the 90-minute classes, I don’t think students can pay attention for that long of a period of time… And I feel like with an academy some people change their major in college. I feel like it’s hard to expect a freshman to expect what they want to be when they grow up,” she said. 

After several students, family members and staff voiced support for public schools Horlick High School teacher Allen Levie said he feared the plan was too divisive.

“Our society is trying to divide us and we can’t allow it,” Levie said. “Public education has to be here to stay because it’s a uniter, that’s why I love public education. You don’t see this in the schools — you don’t see African-American, white kids, and Latino kids hanging together.”

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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