Pocahontas 1/23/17 BOE Meeting Part 1: Proposed New PCHS Schedule Sparks Debate
At the January 23rd meeting of the Pocahontas County Board of Education, PCHS Principal Joe Riley offered up a proposal for a seven period schedule for next school year. The school has been operating on four 90 minute instructional blocks for many years. Riley had been asked by the Board several months ago to look into a schedule change because of their concerns about the high drop-out rate at the school. Under the proposed schedule, there would be no significant time changes as to when school begins and ends each day, and the breakfast and split lunches will remain. Each instructional period would be only 46 or 51 minutes in length. The schedule would also retain the Home room Advisor/Advisee sessions at the end of the day on the first Thursday of the month and Clubs at the end of the day on the first Friday. Mr. Riley himself expressed some reservations about it, but believes it is the best option available. Mr. Riley felt there wasn’t enough time in the school day to do an eight period day, but some staff had suggested a modified block schedule which, while more complicated, he felt might have some merit.
Listen as Principal Riley acknowledges that many of his staff and students do not like the proposed schedule.
“The Staff is concerned about making this transition” Riley says. “They have legitimate concerns, they have legitimate questions about why I am doing it; what I plan to achieve by doing it. And then I talked to some of the students, in fact I had a girl come up to me today and say ‘what are you doing? That’s elementary doing seven periods a day –I don’t like it’ and she turned around and walked away. It’s a kid I know, but definitely there’s some concerns, but I feel there’s some good things in it.”
Concerns about the new schedule were also expressed to the Board by Vice-Principal Kristy Tritapoe which included possible negative effects it might have on the vocational tech programs and students, although Mr. Riley did not see these as unsolvable problems. Kristy Tritapoe also expressed concern about credit recovery under a seven period schedule since a failed class would take two semesters to make up under a seven period schedule, while it could be made up in one semester under the present four block schedule. Kristy explains her concerns.
“We did look at it as a staff, and I asked multiple questions this morning of Mr. Riley” said Kristy. “What is the plan? Where is the safety net for these kids? Because if they are in these classes all year and if they fail Language Arts 9, what are you going to do with them, because we don’t have a solid credit recovery program in the summer anymore?”
When Board President Grimes pointed out that since it only takes 24 credits to graduate, there would be four full semester class periods available to make up a failed class, Ms. Tritapoe replied that a student would then have to take 9th and 10th grade ELA classes at the same time the next year, which would be difficult for ELA but impossible to take Math 9 and 10 together since Math 10 requires the foundation of Math 9.
PCHS junior, Hunter Tankersly expressed his opposition to the proposed schedule.
“I think that having a seven period day is really going to affect a lot of juniors” Hunter said. “Maybe not so much the students who are just coming into the high school, but a lot of juniors because we’ve kind of relied on being able to take a class next year or try to double up on classes next year, and we are not going to be able to do that. If I wanted to take two Math classes next year, they’d be all year long. I couldn’t split them up between semesters. If students can’t have two separate semesters of four blocks, they can’t ever advance. I couldn’t go any further than just what’s next, I couldn’t take that next step if we had seven periods next year.”
Dustin Lambert, Principal of Marlinton Middle School weighed in and said he is a huge proponent of the new schedule. He taught an 8 period schedule at Lincoln county High school and it worked great. He added that students just cannot concentrate on one subject for 90 minutes. All in all, many differing opinions were expressed by Board members, staff, parents and students about the proposed schedule.
Board member Steve Tritapoe said that it was a simple decision since even on the paper Mr. Riley had provided in support of the change, the listed “cons” outnumbered the listed “pros.”. Although the Board was not willing to make a final decision on the schedule at this meeting, Mr. Riley asked that they do so soon since he wants the students to know their next year’s schedule before starting summer break.
Stay tunes to AMR Radio for part 2 of this story where we will report on all the other actions taken at the January 23rd Board of Education meeting.