SPS ponders schedule change

Published 11:03 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

School just is not what it used to be.

From SOLs and AYP standards to the advancement placement and dual credit courses, today’s school environment has changed radically from what it was like 50 years ago.

So, then, why should schools be run like they were 50 years ago?

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It’s a question Suffolk Public Schools’ administration has been working toward answering by considering a new “4×4” schedule.

“We have included in our Comprehensive Plan that we would look at alternative schedules that may benefit students,” Deran Whitney, deputy superintendent for Suffolk Public Schools, wrote in an email statement to the News-Herald. “Some teachers and some staff members have expressed an interest in Block Scheduling.”

The 4×4 school year would have students take four classes each semester, which Whitney said gives students several key advantages.

Among other benefits, switching to a 4×4 school year would allow students more time to prepare for each class, allow long blocks of uninterrupted time for instruction, allow students to repeat failed courses without attending summer school and have more enrollment in dual credit college courses.

While there are many positives to be considered, a change of this magnitude would have some disadvantages.

“At this point, the primary challenge may be the adjustments we would need to make to our curriculum pacing guides,” Whitney said. “Another may be the adjustments teachers and students will need to make to a new schedule.”

For instance, Whitney said, the school system would need to add a few minutes to the instructional day to make the schedule work.

So far, no decision has been made on the proposed change. The school system is still studying and researching the change and its potential impact on the schools.

“We are still in the process of gathering community input. Thus, far it has been supportive,” Whitney said.

Making the switch is not a new idea.

According to a Suffolk Public Schools release, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight County schools all have adopted the new schedule.

Whitney said that if the change is accepted, the soonest the switch would take place would be for the 2010-2011 school year. He also said the school system is working on the research in hopes to make a recommendation to the School Board by this spring.

To give feedback to the idea, parents, teachers or community members can email extendingschoolday@spsk12.net.