2016-04-01 / Front Page

Changes coming to school schedule

An advisory program is added at the high school for the upcoming year
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Students and staff will see the school day schedule changed next year, but a full transition from the current schedule to one that will offer students more flexibility in what they can take won’t happen until September 2017.

Scarborough High School Principal David Creech said school leaders have been working on making the switch since the 2013-2014 school year, shortly after he arrived at the school.

The objective, he told members of the board of education last week, is to offer students eight classes a semester rather than the seven that are offered now, which would allow students an opportunity to take a wider variety of electives and required classes.

“Having that extra period will allow students to take everything they need and everything they want,” said Emma Hartl, who represents the class of 2016 on the board of education.

The change will also incorporate time every day for students to meet with teachers for academic support or advice.

Creech said making the full class schedule change for next year would be next to impossible given the fact that there are several other large initiatives being undertaken at the high school, including preparing for reaccreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, a switch to a proficiency-based diploma, continued refinement of curriculum and professional development and finding additional ways to merge technology into the classroom.

The academic support and advisory program will be implemented for next year, but the class schedule change will be delayed until the 2017-2018 school year.

Creech said he would not want to prematurely make the transition, implement it and then see it fail because it was rushed.

The new schedule would either be organized in a way in which students would have each of their eight classes five times over an eight-day period or in a more block-scheduling approach in which students would have four classes one day and the other four classes the next day.

Board of education member Kate Miles said she is a strong proponent of block scheduling and “would love to fight for whatever resources are needed” to adopt that model.

Either way, to successfully make the transition Creech said the high school needs additional staff, including at least five for the 2016-2017 school year and another three or four the following year.

“Without those resources, we aren’t able to put in place what needs to be done,” he said.

The additional staff would allow the school to support existing class offerings, the schedule change, the academic support/ advisory period, the graduation requirement change, and meet both state and local standards.

“We are turning students away from classes. We are not able to offer things like an (advanced placement) Latin or (advanced placement) physics class because we don’t have enough teachers,” Creech said.

Securing that additional staffing resource, Creech said is “key to implementation.” Assuming the school can get the additional five staff members next year, a number of new courses, including advanced placement computer science, robotics and two new English electives, including one dealing with detective stories, will be offered.

Students are signing up for those classes and others now.

Hartl has been working with Creech and Lizzie Hobbs, the class of 2017 representative, to keep the student body appraised of the change and why it is being made.

Student reaction, she said, has been mixed.

“There are definitely some students who are used to the seven classes and hesitant to move to eight,” she said. “A lot of people are excited to have the academic support piece because with sports and activities after school, there is not a lot of time for it.”

The academic support/advisory period will take place for 35 minutes between block one and block two. During this period the study body will be split into groups of 10 students that will be paired with the same staff member for all four years of high school. The groups, Creech said, will be “grade-alike,” although the exact makeup is not known yet.

“We still have a few months to make that determination,” Creech said.

To make room for the academic support/ advisory period, classes next year will be 60 minutes rather than 65 minutes.

The academic support/advisory period will allow students to catch up on school work they missed, allow for academic advisement with a staff member, as well as allow students the time to work on group projects or even take an online enrichment class.

Superintendent George Entwistle said one of the pieces of the advisory/academic support time that excites him is the potential for group work.

“It can be a time for collaborative learning,” he said.

Students will need a pass to go see a teacher and leave their academic support/ advisory classroom. Creech said he is exploring orchestrating it through an online program that would track students like Cape Elizabeth High School does.

“It’s a service we believe we should be providing given the needs of our students,” Creech said.

There will be no academic support/advisory period during late start Wednesdays. Miles wondered if academic support is such a priority, why it isn’t offered on such Wednesdays.

Creech said fitting it into the abbreviated school day, in which classes are shrunk to 50 minutes, would mean each period would only be 38 minutes.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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