Parowan High School seeks qualified volunteers for Wednesday morning tutor program

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PAROWAN — Late-start Wednesdays at Parowan High School have become a time for educators to connect students who struggle academically with additional time to finish work under the supervision of a tutor — and they could use some extra hands.

Parowan High School remedial tutor program

“In the Iron County School District we have late-start Wednesdays where they don’t start school until 9:30 in the morning,” Parowan High School Principal Roy Mathews said. “During that time over here in Parowan we have a remediation program going on.”

Parowan High School services between 375 and 400 students per year educating them from grades 7 through 12. If a student’s GPA falls below 2.0, Mathews said, they are required to come to school at the regularly scheduled meeting time at 7:55 a.m. and work in groups with tutors who can help them catch up.

“It’s mandatory for these students, but it’s not punitive,” he said, explaining that their hope is students look to the tutor program for opportunities rather than view it a punishment.

Any student who needs help with schoolwork is welcome to attend, Mathews said. Some students show up voluntarily when they are having trouble with a particular subject, section or work.  

Since the program was initiated two years ago, Mathews said the number of students struggling with a GPA below 2.0 has shrunk considerably.

“We’ve shrunk that number to as low a one percent of the student population,” he said. “It’s fluctuated, it’s gone from one percent to five percent, but we’re trying to hold it at that bottom percent.”

Early out, late start Wednesdays

In 1999 the Iron County School District initiated an early-out Wednesday program in all elementary schools district-wide, according to the district website.

Each Wednesday elementary school students are dismissed at 1:30 p.m. rather than 3:30 p.m. The odd schedule is designed to give teachers time every week to work together and learn from each other in order to better improve student learning and outcomes.

Teachers share knowledge and techniques, attend trainings and help to develop comprehensive lesson plans to use in classrooms.

 School board member Becki Bronson said after recognizing the improvements taking place in the elementary schools through years of observation, Superintendent Shannon Dulaney sought to bring time to professionally develop and collaborate for secondary educators through late-start.

The choice to use a late-start model as opposed to an early-out model mostly revolved around bus scheduling and availability, she said. Late-start Wednesday mornings began during the 2014-2015 school year.

How volunteers could help

Parowan High School currently only has two volunteers, and is currently seeking more qualified applicants.

Students are separated into five basic groups based on subject matter: career and technical education (CTE), science, math, english and history. Computer labs are made available for students working on english, history and CTE work.

Shirley Lister is an instructional aid at Parowan High who works with students every Wednesday. First they work with students to help them catch up work that is overdue, she said, then they help them with current homework.

“Because I work at the school … I know what’s going on in the classrooms,” Lister said. “But the volunteers are not in the classroom so it’s a challenge sometimes.”

The two volunteers who work with students every Wednesday were formerly professors at the University of Utah, Lister said, and the expertise in their field has proven invaluable when working with the students.

“They may not know exactly how the assignments are supposed to be done, but they have the knowledge to help them,” she said.

Qualified volunteers who have the skills and the time to devote are hard to come by, Mathews said, but the manpower is essential to running the program

Those interested in volunteering must be able to pass a background check, Mathews said, adding that they should also have patience, enjoy working with youth and have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of students in the program.

“It can be like herding cats when there’s 160 kids in there,” Mathews said. “Being able to have enough volunteers to break people into small groups (is important) … despite how many computers we get in the world there’s still this human element that we need.”

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