Highland High School Implements New Class Schedule Protocol

Highland High School will introduce a new class scheduling protocol, called block scheduling, to students and staff this coming academic year and we wanted to know what was behind the change.  Principal Tim Good was kind enough to answer our questions.

Mr. Good, what is block scheduling?

Our school day last year and previous years went to 3:30. So we were looking at, is there a possible way to get students out of school a little bit earlier without sacrificing instructional time?  When we started exploring different schedules, we looked at the block schedule, and we are going with what’s called a four-by-four block, essentially four classes each semester. And then the second semester, you take four new courses.  The students have 88 minutes of class, and they are earning a credit each semester in every course they take.  So, they can get up to eight credits. So, four credits the first semester and four during the second semester.

What are some of the advantages to this new approach?

The whole state of Virginia, now, we’re looking at what’s called project based learning or project based assessment. So in order to do an assessment in a project based class, obviously, you need more on-site time. And so when you do a project, if you have 47 minutes of class, well, then you’re setting up and cleaning up at the beginning of every period, where now we have 88 minutes of time. So you’re going to have a lot more time to focus in on that project.  Our CTE programs, that’s what they’ve been doing forever.  You have a shop class, or an Ag class or a computer class where you’re producing something – that’s project based assessment.  And they’ve needed that time.  They’re really excited about that opportunity.

Does a longer class period require more focus from the students?

It does, and students going to the next level, most college classes, one, they are semester-based.  You’re taking college classes per semester. And I know some of them are only an hour, but a lot of them are an hour, an hour and a half. And if you take evening classes, two and three hours.  So, we’re asking kids to prepare for the future.  I mean, one of the things that one, colleges want and also employers want is, can students stay on task be focused for an extended period of time?  Well, that’s what we’re going to have our students do.

How has the staff responded to the change?

When I brought this to the staff in the fall, they were really excited about the different opportunities that our students are going to have, and what it can do for their lesson planning. They too, were feeling the idea of, hey, I’m asking kids to come in and do a little bit and then we’re going to almost reteach the next day where we don’t have to.  We won’t lose that time. When you look at, unfortunately, here in Highland, we have a lot of two-hour delays. Well, on those days in our previous schedule, we had 30 minutes of class.  You lose a lot of instructional time.  Now, I’m still going to have an hour in those classes. Even though I have a two-hour delay, I’ll still have an hour of a block left. So, that’ll be another opportunity, too.

Do any nearby school systems use block scheduling?

Augusta County does a schedule very similar to what we’re doing and I actually had my teachers go and visit Buffalo Gap High School in the spring and talk to teachers and see what it’s like.  So, they can kind of give some pointers. So, we’re excited that a lot of them came back with some great ideas, able to also form relationships with other colleagues out there. So hey, I don’t know how to do US history. And so then they can send an email or give them a call and kind of work through that. So, that’s exciting.

For Allegheny Mountain Radio, this is Mickey Frank Thomas.

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Mickey Frank Thomas

Mickey Frank began his radio career in October 2017 when he was offered the impossible-to-fill 9:00 p.m. to midnight slot on Saturdays, where his coordinated mix of pop, soft rock and R&B from the 60s through the 80s met with little acclaim. Deciding that he needed a more awake audience, he added the 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. afternoon drive slot to his workload when it became available in December 2018. Originally from Morton, Illinois, good, old Mickey Frank has lived in more places than he can count on his fingers and toes, but now resides in Highland County.  Email Mickey Frank at  mickeyfrank@amrmail.org.

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