Hickman could change to block scheduling for 2012-13

Monday, February 28, 2011 | 5:52 p.m. CST; updated 9:24 p.m. CST, Monday, February 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — Hickman High School could introduce block scheduling next year to make it easier for students to meet graduation requirements, take off-campus classes and have more contact with teachers.

The graduation requirement has increased from 22 to 24 credits, which puts a strain on Hickman students whose current schedules allow for only seven credits per year, said Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education.

Hickman's current schedule follows a traditional pattern, with seven class periods per day and a lunch period. 

Blocking would let students to take eight credits per year, similar to the schedule at Rock Bridge.

Rock Bridge operates on a traditional block schedule, with four 90-minute blocks per day. Each set of four classes meets every other day during the week.

Hickman is proposing a modified block schedule with four 90-minute blocks Monday through Thursday and a traditional eight-period Friday. Students would get a 40-minute lunch period and a mandatory 50-minute free period or academic prep period.

If necessary, blocks on alternating days could be split into shorter 45-minute periods so some classes could still be held on a daily basis. Teachers would see all of their students on Friday.

"In our minds, it’s the best of both worlds," Hickman Principal Tracey Conrad said.  "It combines the opportunities for eight credits of the block and also makes sure you see your students three times a week at least."

A modified block schedule would allow students to accrue more credits toward graduation during a given school year. Conrad hopes this would give them the chance to take classes at the Columbia Area Career Center or take advantage of dual enrollment at MU.

"It’s the modified block that really has the most opportunities for kids," Brown said.

A mandatory free period during the day would add flexibility to student schedules and give struggling students a chance to get one-on-one time with teachers.

“Students who need the most support can’t put a study hall in their schedule because they are behind in credits, and they don’t have time during the day to access our support labs,” Conrad said.

Although the prep period would be mandatory, students could choose how to use the time.

Hickman chemistry teacher Carrie Morgan described the free period as “a time where the day would just stop, and every teacher would be available to any student who needed help.”

Students who don't need extra academic help could use the time to study, access media labs, participate in enrichment activities or take online classes.

In a work session Thursday morning, board members expressed concern over aspects of the block-scheduling plan.

Columbia School Board member Jan Mees questioned the ability of the teachers to accommodate so many students coming in for help, and board member Michelle Pruitt wondered how Advanced Placement classes would be affected by a schedule change. Conrad said discussions with faculty and staff are addressing those kinds of issues.

The most recent poll of faculty and staff documented that 72 percent were in support of a schedule change. Conrad said plans would not move forward until support reached 80 percent. If approved, the new schedule would be implemented in the 2012-13 school year.

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