School board plans block schedule for Tuscola in 2015
In August 2015, Tuscola High School will be the new kid on the block schedule.
Haywood County School officials are planning to implement a four-period block schedule for Tuscola classes, which is the same one that has been in place Pisgah High School since the 1990s.
The idea of implementing the block schedule at Tuscola had been discussed previously, but principal Dale McDonald and his staff could not reach a consensus. However after much consideration, Superintendent Anne Garrett and Associate Superintendent Bill Nolte have met with McDonald and has asked the school to begin working toward a block schedule.
The change in Tuscola’s schedule will include an extended class time with fewer class changes. Whereas instructors currently teach for 60 minutes to about five classes per day, the new block schedule would let instructors have 90 minutes of class time, and only teach about three classes.
In addition, Bill Nolte, associate superintendent, said the block schedule opened up more opportunities for students.
“Students get an opportunity for extra credit each year,” Nolte said during the December school board meeting. “Some students who have failed something will look for that extra opportunity to make something up. And some students who really are looking toward a hard-to-get-in college can front honors courses or AP courses, or double up on honors. It’s a little GPA advantage for them.”
Tuscola’s transition to the block schedule will be a slow, careful process. Anne Garrett, superintendent of Haywood County Schools, spelled out plans during the December school board meeting.
The school board has scheduled a committee meeting for Jan. 15 to determine which current block schedule schools to visit and observe, Garrett said. By Feb. 28, the board plans to hold its first parent information night. In March, the school will have its research committee visit the schools. The research committee will consist of Tuscola’s principal and assistant principal, the central office supervisor, a counselor, core subject teachers, vocational teachers, special education teachers, and a parent and others.
By April 1, the first drafted block schedule will be constructed. In May, the school board will revise the drafted schedule. In June, professional training will be offered to the school staff.
In February 2015, a second round of parent meetings will be held and the final schedule will be created. Sometime before the 2015-16 school year, Garrett said she planned to have a third professional development training for teachers. And by August 2015, the changes will be fully implemented.
Garrett said the long process was a way to ensure that the schedule change was done correctly.
“We want to do it the right way,” Garrett said. “We want to be very deliberate in what we do. We want to make sure we have adequate time to plan these courses.”
Nolte discussed some other block schedule advantages during the meeting, which included fewer disruptions, fewer big tests each semester, and a more manageable schedule.
In addition, a block schedule will allow Tuscola High School students to schedule dual enrollment classes much easier with local colleges or univerisites, Nolte said. A block schedule is also important to the school board because of Haywood County School district snow day waiver.
“We average eight or nine missed days a year, plus two-hour delays and early dismissals,” Nolte said. “On the block schedule, if you lose two hours a day, all four classes can still be an hour long. On a seven period day, it really cuts into the class time.”
However, Nolte said there were some disadvantages to the block schedule. He explained that Tuscola students who failed one of the 12 common core courses would have a more difficult time making up that class and graduating on time.
“They would have to double up on a core course their junior or senior year, or they might need to do credit recovery,” Nolte said. “But we want to avoid moving people to another school to graduate when the only difference in the schedule.”
Another disadvantage is that students will spend less time overall in class. While a school year at Tuscola is currently made up of 150 hours, a block schedule would cut the hours down to 135 per year. Nolte said statistically on average, students will not perform differently because of the 15-20 hour difference in the schedule.
“But you have to admit, just being honest here, that there are a few students that those 15 to 20 hours will make a difference to,” Nolte said. “We need to be very mindful about that think about their schedules.”
In addition, the block schedule requires much more thoughtful planning, specifically for students who are taking honors courses. For example, students who add honors courses to better their GPA may be limited in taking other course such as performing arts and world languages.
Deadlines for making up absences on a block schedule also come much quicker, which will be an adjustment for students.
Ultimately, Nolte said changing to block schedule would not affect the school’s state performance or academic growth.
“There’s a lot of research on different six- or seven-period day block schedules,” Nolte said. “Students who take biology on a six- or seven- period day or a block schedule statistically do the same.”