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Education: WHS plans hybrid class schedule

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A plan to change the schedule at Waccamaw High in the fall would allow students in some Advanced Placement and college-credit courses to continue with longer class periods that are a key feature of the current schedule. Other classes would shift from a semester system of 90-minute classes to a year-long schedule of 55-minute classes.

Waccamaw is one of three Georgetown County high schools where principals say the change from a block schedule to a more traditional schedule will improve learning. At Georgetown High, principal Michael Cafaro said “I see nothing wrong with the four-by-four schedule.”

The district adopted four-period blocks of 90 minutes in 1996. Course schedules change for each 90-day semester. Last month, principals asked the district to change to a traditional seven-period schedule. Parent forums at each school showed concerns for students who take the most rigorous courses and for the added homework that would come with a schedule of seven classes.

“Change can be painful,” David Hammel, principal at Waccamaw High, said in presenting his plan to the school board this week. He said he believes the change will be worth the effort because it will improve results on state-mandated end-of-course exams that count for 20 percent of the grade.

The hybrid schedule will apply to AP calculus and U.S. history as well as college-credit classes offered through Horry-Georgetown Technical College. Those classes will meet over two periods.

AP chemistry and biology classes will meet for more than 55 minutes to accommodate lab work, possibly with time added at the start or end of the school day. Other AP classes, including Spanish, French and English, will follow the traditional schedule.

The change requires approval from the school board.

Superintendent Randy Dozier will make a recommendation to the board March 1. He expects to follow the recommendations of the principals, which means schedules will vary between schools.

Board members said they got calls from Waccamaw High parents concerned about the seven-period schedule, but believe Hammel’s proposal answers those concerns.

“The year-round offering will allow more instruction and more engagement,” Board Member Teresa Benanni said. She also researched AP scores at schools around the state and found many results as good or better than Waccamaw’s at schools with traditional schedules.

Andrews High currently has eight-period schedules for freshmen and sophomores, who double up on English and math classes. The additional teachers to maintain that schedule are paid for through federal funds the school receives to aid low-income students.

With more money to hire more teachers around the district, the transition in schedules would be easier, Dozier said. But the district expects more cuts in revenue for the coming year.

A traditional schedule requires less teachers because each one sees more students, but no reductions are planned in Georgetown County, Dozier said.

The change is expected to lead to slightly smaller class sizes, said Patti Hammel, the district’s director of student performance. That means there should be more interaction between students and teachers, she said.

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