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By ANGELA WOODS
The new seven-period format at Carroll County High School opened to mixed reviews at the start of the school year last month.
The new format replaces the “block scheduling” that was implemented at the school several years ago. Under that format, students had four 45-minute classes that met all year and two 90-minute classes that changed each semester.
The new format allows students to earn seven credits a year, one less than the eight that could be earned under block scheduling.
This year, CCHS students have seven 50-minute classes. There are no one-semester classes offered.
Principal John Leeper said the change will allow teachers to better monitor student progress throughout the year, and provides students more time to absorb information.
Some core classes, for example, were offered only for a semester each, he said. That meant teachers had to cram one year’s worth of information into a half year.
“We have a large percentage of students at CCHS who can stay focused for shorter amounts of time,” Leeper said. “We want students to receive smaller chunks of information over a longer period of time to really generate retention.”
Leeper said he believes the seven-period day also will lead to better scores on the annual CATS Assessment.
Guidance counselor Sheree Richter believes the new scheduling will “fill gaps” in the curriculum created by the old schedule.
For instance, Richter said some students had Algebra 1 the first semester of their freshman year and weren’t scheduled for geometry until the second semester of their sophomore year.
Without a math class between those two semesters, they were more likely to forget some key concepts, Richter said.
“Over the years, more and more teachers wanted to have their students year long,” she added, particularly teachers of the yearbook, newspaper, band, English 12, and advanced-placement classes.
But many students – and some teachers – say they are not fond of the change.
“I do not appreciate losing a credit a year,” said junior Bethany Riley.
The graduation requirement at CCHS has, effectively, been reduced from 28 to 27 credits. Students who are freshmen this year will need only 24 to graduate.
“Some colleges expect a different numbers of credits,” Riley said, adding she believes the new schedule holds back advanced-level students, who would get more by taking eight classes a year.
She also thinks the class periods are too short. “You can’t get anything done in just 50 minutes in a science class or art class.”
Senior Christin Stoops agrees. “I feel very rushed. There’s never enough time to get everything done.”
Another result of the change is less time between classes to pass through the halls. That’s been cut from five minutes to four, and many said that lost minute really does make a difference if the classrooms are far apart.
Senior Jimmy Sisenstein said the seven-period day seems more monotonous. “The days just drag on when you have to go to seven different classes every day.”
Junior Ryan Miles said he’s having trouble staying on top of his assignments. “It’s hard to keep up with homework from seven classes.”
“I think it’s definitely a drastic change that people are still trying to get used to,” said science teacher Duke Boles. “Personally, with more classes to prepare for and less time to prepare, it’s more difficult on me.”
The planning period for teachers is now only 50 minutes instead of 90. All teachers now have six classes to instruct, as opposed to three to five a day last year.
Warran McEuen, who teaches Spanish, said he sees the good and the bad.
He said it was difficult for him to get organized this year because he has had to “adjust how much I do with a class everyday, because I’m used to having students for 90 minutes. ... I think for the students who struggle and who don’t have support from home, it’ll be better, because they’ll have the class all year.”
As the teacher with the most tenure at CCHS, he said he is “trying to be positive about the decisions that was made.”
English teacher Dan Mahoney declined comment directly on the changes. “I can’t tell you right now, because my voice is too hoarse from speaking for six periods a day.”
Time will tell if everyone will adjust to the changes.
“I’m still waiting to see how it will affect students’ work,” said Boles. “Obviously, there’s now more work [being given to] them with seven classes instead of six.”
Leeper said he understands the arguments, but stands behind the decision. “It is tough, but I think if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, which is preparing students for life after high school, we have to create that level of intensity.”