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Collier County high school students will have block scheduling for one more year.
It just won’t be the schedule most of them are used to and that has some parents and students concerned.
The Collier County School District has decided to move away from the traditional block schedule to an alternating-day block schedule.
Currently, students take four 86-minute classes per day and four classes per semester, receiving eight credits per year. Under the new schedule, students will still take four 86-minute classes each day, but they will take eight classes per semester and receive eight credits per year. The students’ schedules will alternate four classes one day, the other four the next.
The Collier County School Board voted 4-1 Feb. 21 to keep block scheduling for the 2008-09 school year. Vice Chairwoman Pat Carroll dissented.
Superintendent Dennis Thompson said he and Chief Instructional Officer Martha Hayes met with high school principals last week about finding a common schedule. All of the high schools did some form of alternating block, but Lely High School was the only school that did it completely.
He said the principals voted unanimously to change the schedule to alternating block.
Thompson said the change will accomplish several things. It will be beneficial to courses that need to be held all year on an alternating day, such as band and yearbook.
Jonathan Tuttle, executive director of the Collier County Education Association, which represents 80 percent of the district’s teachers, said he has received several e-mails from teachers who are “furious” about the change.
“They ignored the arguments the teachers used to keep the (block),” he said. “A lot of folks feel it was spiteful, that it was almost a punishment.”
Tuttle said the teachers believe that the district is ignoring the fact that fewer classes is better and that it allows the students to focus.
Tuttle said the teachers have been urged to go to the School Board meeting Thursday to discuss the change.
“Teachers should go to every School Board meeting. The School Board needs to hear from teachers,” Tuttle said.
The news of the change has not sat well with students, either.
“I guess it’s a patch, but it is not what we wanted,” said Gulf Coast High School Junior Evan Weiss. “Kids aren’t happy, but it’s better than having seven classes a day.”
Weiss said the change will discourage students from taking multiple languages or taking two math classes in a year. He said students wanted to keep the schedules like they have them now, at least for one more year.
While most courses will be held all year, Thompson said there are some exceptions. He said those exceptions include things, such as intensive math and Calculus A/B. He added that there will be a provision that will allow high school seniors to finish their foreign language requirement.
“There are a number of seniors who wait to take their foreign language requirement, which is incomprehensible to me,” he said. “We have made arrangements to allow them a semester block to do foreign language.”
Tess Wilbur-Williams, an exceptional student education teacher at Palmetto Ridge High School, said that there was an upside and many downsides to moving towards alternate block.
“The upside is that it is going to prepare us for the seven-credit year next year when we will have seven classes a day,” she said.
At the Feb. 21 board meeting, the board also voted 3-2 to move from an eight-credit year to a seven-credit year by 2009-10. Board Chairwoman Linda Abbott and member Kathleen Curatolo cast the dissenting votes.
The seven-class schedule was recommended by district staff, who said the change will give students more instruction time in each class. It will also save the district $5.7 million and cut 84 high school teaching positions during a time when the district is facing a general revenue shortfall due to a statewide revenue shortfall.
The alternating block will not save the district any money, Thompson said.
“Block is block,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you do it, it costs the same.”
Wilbur-Williams said the change will hurt the lowest quartile of students who will have to juggle eight classes at once. She also said it will not help students who fail a class take the class over again in the same year.
“I don’t think for the honors students that it will be bad because it will mirror college,” she said. “But for those lower quartile students, I think it is a disservice and I don’t see what the educational rationale is.”
Thompson said while there are pros and cons to every decision, he believes most students will adapt well to alternating day.
“When people say kids can’t prepare for eight classes, I always say, ‘Says who?’” he said. “Students at Lely do it every day. I understand the concerns. Any time you do something new, it is an adjustment.”