By Jane Reuter
Following Mountain Vista High School's lead, Highlands Ranch High School announced it also will return to a more traditional class schedule in 2014-15.
The move away from a block schedule will give students less free time and more access to teachers for one-on-one help.
"Our staff approved it by 92 percent," Principal Jerry Goings said. "It was overwhelming support."
Mountain Vista announced a similar schedule decision earlier this month. At least three other Douglas County high schools also are considering a schedule reversion. Forecasted budget increases that will enable schools to hire more teachers are prompting the conversations.
Per-pupil funding has increased about $280 since the block schedule's implementation in 2012-13. Nevertheless, Goings said switching the schedule requires careful budgeting.
"It costs more money to run (the schedule) so our budget is tighter," Goings said, "but cutting down some of the free time for our kids, making sure that when they have that time our teachers are available for academic assistance and advisement - we're very excited about what that can do for kids."
HRHS' 2014-15 schedule will be a modified version of the 5-of-7, so called because it requires teachers to teach five out of seven class periods.
Most Douglas County high schools have been on the 6-of-8 schedule for the last two years. Under it, students have fewer classes per day but meet for longer, 90-minute periods than under the 5-of-7 schedule. It also required all high school teachers teach an additional class.
"Teachers and staff and administration were all running like crazy trying to keep this going, yet the kids had all this time," Going said. "We were trying to find a way to get them to use it effectively, but we just didn't have time to do that."
Some schools, like HRHS, also sacrificed the open advisement period under the 6-0f-8 schedule to guard against the loss of any additional class time.
Under next year's schedule, "Kids will not have as much free time, but the trade-out for kids is, now you have an off-period when teachers have an off-period, so you can get help," Goings said.
The modified schedule - similar though not identical to Mountain Vista's proposal - still retains some of the longer block periods that allowed for deeper exploration of subjects and longer labs.
"We sort of found the best of both worlds," Goings said. "There's no perfect master schedule for high schools.
"The weakness is class sizes do go up a little."
HRHS will hire about five more teachers to shift the workload and put the new schedule in place.
"Teachers are excited about it," Goings said. "The main reason is they think we can develop a system that's better for kids."
Rock Canyon High School Principal Andy Abner is gathering feedback from staff, parents and students. He expects to reach a decision in early April.
ThunderRidge and Chaparral high schools also reportedly are considering a schedule change.