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WHS: Confused about new schedules? Meetings will explain it

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

As Georgetown County school officials work out the logistics of a new ninth-grade schedule, parents are wondering how it’s going to affect their children.

The schedule change means rising ninth-graders will not have four 90-minute classes that change each semester.

Instead, their English, math, science, social studies and foreign language courses will run for 45 minutes year long.

“I received a lot of phone calls,” said School Board Member Teresa Bennani. “There’s quite a bit of concern among parents and high schoolers as to just how the logistics would work with different bell schedules.”

Patti Hammel, the district’s director of student performance, said informational meetings the district plans to hold will help alleviate those concerns. Meetings will most likely be announced at the March 2 school board meeting, she said.

There is no sample schedule for parents and students to view yet, but Hammel she expects to have one next month.

The schedule will show each ninth-grader taking four academic courses: English, math, science and social studies. Those four classes will last 45 minutes each.

If a student needs extra help in math, for example, he can elect to take a 45-minute enrichment course every day.

Hammel would also like to see what she called bell-to-bell classes where no time is wasted. In order to prevent students from being late and wasting class time, the district is looking into special ninth-grade halls.

Condensing the distance between classes will make student travel time shorter and keep ninth grade class changes from interrupting 90-minute classes in other grades.

Adding in time for lunch and changing classes, the new schedule leaves students time to take two electives, if they don’t take an enrichment course.

Students can choose to take those extra classes, such as band or chorus, all year in 45-minute segments. However, if the class a student wants to take lasts 90 minutes, he can elect to take two 45-minute band classes in the same semester, Hammel said.

The people who will feel the effects from the change are teachers, she said.

“We’re going to have a few minute difference in those year-long and the block classes, and the only people who are going to be affected are the teachers whose planning periods come up against a ninth grade academic setting,” Hammel said. “Those planning periods will have to be carefully crafted.”

The majority of teachers at Waccamaw High School are in favor of the new schedule, even if it means shorter planning periods for some.

“My teachers are very positive about it,” principal David Hammel said.

Teachers said the shorter classes would cut down on behavior problems, and having the class every day would give teachers more time to review and practice skills.

As the district re-evaluated ninth grade schedules, officials discovered that math tech classes, as they’re currently titled, are not accepted by colleges.

The district will rename those courses, keeping the curriculum the same, as it renames academic classes to differentiate from enrichment. For example, the classes will now be known as algebra I-A the main course, and algebra I-B an enrichment course. The same A and B pattern will follow for other classes.

Keeping the transition smooth for honors students is another priority, Hammel said, as the schedule committee works to make the transition smooth for them.

“We’re looking at how we’re going to craft those classes so a student who didn’t elect an honors class in the eighth grade could opt for an honors track and be able to take AP courses,” Hammel said.

Advanced Placement classes will still run for 90 minutes all year long since the curriculum is demanding.

If the 45-minute class schedule is successful, the class of 2015 could potentially keep that schedule for their rest of their high school years, according to Hammel.

Hammel and the district will evaluate the program’s success after the first year.

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