All four of Highlands Ranch's public high schools will return this fall to the more traditional class schedule most used until 2011-12. Two of Parker's three high schools intend to follow suit a year later, while the other three county high schools intend to remain on the block schedule adopted countywide in 2012-13.
An improving economy that's putting more money back into the budgets of schools and enabling them to hire more teachers makes the reversion possible. Parent and teacher surveys show it's what most of them want.
Mountain Vista High School was the first to announce it will return to a modified version of the 5-of-7 schedule — under which teachers hold class during five of seven scheduled periods — in 2014-15. Highlands Ranch, Rock Canyon and ThunderRidge since have come to the same conclusion.
In Parker, Legend and Chaparral plan to do so, but are waiting another year.
Parker's Ponderosa High School, and Castle Rock's Douglas County and Castle View high schools will stay on their current schedules.
All schools opting to change their schedules must hire more teachers to accomplish their goals.
The decision lightens the load for existing staff, all of whom taught an extra class under the 6-of-8 — a decision that kept schools from cutting classes.
Chaparral principal Greg Gotchey said returning to the more traditional schedule isn't an easy task.
“We've got some 30 teachers that are interested in serving on a committee to look at what's best for scheduling,” he said, adding that work will begin in May. “I think we like the seven-day period for kids. And we're growing, so we have the opportunity to hire more teachers and make the 5-of-7 work and still maintain a good chunk of our offerings. But we're going to hold off and investigate a lot of different schedules to see what's best.”
Statistics compiled at Legend High School suggest that while students may like the longer off-periods common to the current schedule, it's not what's best for them. The numbers of Legend High School students with failing grades has increased sharply in the last two years.
“We do have more Fs,” principal Corey Wise said. “Whether or not it's statistically significant — I am not a statistician. My worry is, when kids have the off-time, is it really helping them? Are they really using that time for academic purpose?”
Because the 90-minute periods of the current block schedule are longer than those offered under the 5-of-7, upperclassmen can have the long, back-to-back off-periods more common to college students than high schoolers.
Like Gotchey, Wise chose to wait one more year to change the schedule. The budget picture came into focus too late for his comfort.
“It's so late in April we felt to do it right and well would be hard,” he said. “Between our SAC (School Accountability Committee), our teachers, and even some parents, we felt the 5-of-7 is what people want. So we're going to look at which is the best 5-of-7 and work to do it next year.
“While we stay one more year on the 6-of-8, we want to really have kids use their off-time better. Hopefully they'll have a better GPA (grade point average). That's going to be a key focus.”
Like Gotchey and Wise, Rock Canyon High School principal Andy Abner found the majority of staff, students and parents supported returning to a modified version of the original schedule, but opinions varied.
“Students felt the advantage of the 6-of-8 was they had more time off,” he said. “If you're talking to parents, they felt that was a disadvantage.
“The 5-of-7 still allows off-periods. It just brings things back into a more balanced spectrum.”
Under the RCHS schedule for 2014-15, students and teachers will both have time together in the classroom and for one-on-one advisement.
In an April 8 email to parents, ThunderRidge High School principal Carole Jennings said that school, too, would revert to the original schedule.
“While both schedules have advantages, the seven-period schedule provides increased academic time per class (10.5 hours per year) while increasing academic support and enrichment opportunities for students,” she wrote. “The stakeholder meetings and input overwhelmingly supported moving back to the seven-period modified block schedule.”
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