Randolph principals: Keep block scheduling

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By Beth Christian Broschart, Staff Writer 
The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS - A delegation comprised of Randolph County high school principals asked members of the county Board of Education Monday to allow schools to continue offering modified block scheduling.

Group members including Steve Wamsley, principal of Tygarts Valley High School, said changing high school schedules to seven or eight periods a day would cause many problems, including the potential for more students dropping out of school.

"We appreciate the fact that we have the flexibility that allows us to tailor the needs of our students," Wamsley said. "We would like to show you (block scheduling) produces positive results."

Wamsley said that last year, the Randolph Technical Center was named a School of Excellence, Elkins High School was designated a "success" school and Tygarts Valley Middle/High School and Harman High School were "transition" schools.

"These designations represent the highest of five designations," Wamsley said. "We feel that what we are doing is allow students who want to go to college to attend college. We can also make it flexible for those who want to go to the tech center but not to college."

Wamsley said if Randolph County schools would go to seven or eight period days, students from Harman and Tygarts Valley High School would miss first and fourth periods completely in the mornings, and would miss fifth and eighth periods completely.

"Students would have scheduling issues with core classes at their school and may not be able to complete all courses required to be a completer at the Randolph Technical Center."

He said if a student fails a class in high school, they would be forced to repeat the course the following year, and would be behind his or her graduating class.

"This would cause the drop out rate to go up," Wamsley said.

The group presented findings from a survey on block scheduling. Wamsley said 89.09 percent of parents said they were in favor of continuing block scheduling, 85.81 percent of students agree that they can make better grades in block classes, and 86.67 percent of teachers agree that block scheduling provides the education they want for their students.

"As you can see, the results are overwhelming," Wamsley said. "Parents, students and teachers are happy with block scheduling."

Wamsley said another advantage of block scheduling is diminished discipline issues.

Board member Ed Tyre asked if more courses could be offered if the schools went back to seven or eight period days.

"You could put more classes in," Wamsley said. "But unless you have the staff and the students to do that, it would make no sense."

Wamsley said Tygarts Valley has a unique situation because he not only offers high school classes, but middle school as well.

"If we changed to period classes, Elkins High School would have to lengthen their day," Wamsley said. "Then we would have to change bus schedules, student schedules and make other accommodations."

Tyre said he spoke with a superintendent of a neighboring county at a regional meeting.

"He said when they eliminated block scheduling, they were able to free up 16 or 17 teachers," Tyre said. "When things get tight, you have an obligation to look at that."

Wamsley said if the schools go back to periods, they may not be able to offer dual-credit college classes or AP classes. He said college classes are set up on the semester, and colleges do not like to work with schools when classes are spread across the entire year.

Board member Bruce Haddix said he believes block scheduling is set up only for the top students that are going to college.

"High school students have no longer of an attention span than middle school students," Haddix said. "That is a big problem with block scheduling. I realize the Randolph Technical Center needs longer periods, but that is totally different. We are not preparing that student that is not a straight A student."

Student representative Gretchen Kalar said she was a big fan of block scheduling.

"Last semester I had a dual-credit class," Kalar said. "I had time for my labs and for field trips and more time to write essays. I think it is beneficial and I see how it helps me and my fellow students."

Superintendent Terry George urged board members to think about the evening's discussion on block versus period scheduling for high school, and come back to him if they decide to put the issue on a board agenda for a vote.

In other business, members of the board voted to move their regular scheduled meetings to 6 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of the month. This will become effective on Feb. 19.

The next regular meeting of the Randolph County Board of Education is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 3.