High school gathering facts on class scheduling

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Jan. 16, 2008

GUILFORD — The high school will hold a forum tonight for parents to discuss the daily classes schedule, which has been a topic of discussion and debate for several years.

Students have eight 45-minute periods a day, which are shorter classes than many high schools typically have. Lunch is also built into the schedule as a class period, which means that some students who want to take seven or eight classes do not have time set aside for lunch.

Guilford High School Principal Rick Misenti said he has talked with teachers, parents and students in recent months to learn what they think about the current schedule. Tonight’s event will be another step in that process.

“The forum really is an opportunity for me to gauge from the community a readiness to look at other schedules that might be more beneficial to student achievement,” he said. “There’s been no decision to change anything for next year — we’re still in a fact-gathering mode, still listening to people.”

Misenti, who is in his first year as principal, said that the schedule has been under discussion for as many as 15 years. Many people think that 45-minute classes are too short, he said.

“By the time the teacher settles the class down, takes attendance and begins instruction, you’ve lost a few minutes already at the beginning of class,” he said. “So are the students on a level playing field when they leave our school?” About two years ago, former Principal Bruce Hall suggested switching to a block scheduling system. Under that proposal, students would have four 90-minute classes every day, plus 30 minutes for lunch, and would attend each class every other day.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said that block scheduling would present several problems for the district. If students take six classes, the minimum requirement, some could have four classes one day and only two the following day with three hours of free time. It would also take significant teacher retraining to double the amount of time for each class.

He added that he thinks most teachers would like class periods of about 60 minutes.

The schedule is partly constrained by the size and layout of the high school building, Misenti said.

For example, the teachers’ lounge is not large enough for many teachers to use the space for lesson planning during the day, meaning that most teachers need their own classrooms.

“The truth of the matter is, our building is undersized, so if we want to add curriculum, we can do that, but we would have to take something away. Or if we add curriculum, we would have to add teachers, which is a cost, and we would have to have rooms to put those teachers in,” he said.

A facilities review committee is meeting to discuss the possibility of renovations to Guilford High School and Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School, and plans to present its recommendations to the Board of Education in February.

The parent forum will take place at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Guilford High School. Misenti said that he will ask parents to fill out a form about their thoughts on the schedule.

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