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Shorter classes, but fuller schedules

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

A shift from the 90-minute classes that make up the “block schedules” of Georgetown County high schools is due to start in the fall with incoming freshmen.

They will be able to take 45-minute classes for the full year rather than the longer classes that last one semester. But they will have the option of doubling up in subjects where they need help.

The change will help improve student success, said Patti Hammel, the district’s interim director of student performance.

“If a student needs more help in the area of reading and [language arts] they would take all year-long courses, and they would have a 45-minute block of time that would be dedicated to, for instance, English I. Then they could have another 45-minute block of time to reinforce reading and writing skills,” Hammel told the school board this week.

Students taking physical science could also take an additional 45-minute class that would help them with their science-related math skills.

The new schedule will also keep them from losing instruction time in subjects where continuity is important, Hammel said.

“Will they eliminate the possibility of a student taking Algebra I first semester one year and Algebra II first semester of the next year?” Board Member Benny Elliot asked.

“Yes,” Hammel said. “Students won’t have to wait a year between classes.”

Advanced placement courses will still last 90 minutes and run all year. Meanwhile 45-minute classes will give students the chance to learn about an idea one day and practice it the next rather than cram multiple ideas into one long class.

“Teachers can’t introduce more than one big topic per class and have kids remember it,” Hammel said.

The schedule change will affect all four district high schools, allowing a student to transfer to any school mid-year.

“What is the cost?” Board Member Elery Little asked.

“Not one penny more,” Hammel said “As long as students are scheduled for the course, the state will provide the textbook.”

Additional teachers will not be needed.

The district will meet with teachers, guidance counselors and principals next week to determine how elective courses can fit into the new schedule.

“We are not making any drastic changes,” Hammel said.

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