Views split on block scheduling

May 30, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Opinions were split Thursday night as Waynesboro Area School Board members, some faculty and parents held another round in the ongoing discussion about implementing block scheduling at the high school.

At a special meeting, several teachers and board members spent over two hours discussing the pros and cons of changing from the current daily schedule of seven or eight 45-minute classes to four 90-minute classes.

Nearly a dozen high school faculty and staff told the board they are generally in favor of switching to the block scheduling concept which would allow more intensive studying and concentration on one subject.


Several even suggested implementing the schedule on a trial basis.

But the group also pointed out a number of possible pitfalls to the new schedule, including problems with student attention spans, difficulty in covering enough subject content, and lack of continuity.

"It's no secret that the math department is not strongly in favor of block scheduling," said math teacher Gail Hammond, who is concerned that students won't get enough of the subject and will likely forget what they've learned from one semester to the next.

Teachers representing other subjects voiced similar opinions, saying they could lose time in review and getting back on track under the proposed schedule.

Board member John Keller said his concern from the beginning is that 90 minutes of one subject may be too long for students to handle.

"It seems to be accepted that attention spans are diminishing," he said.

Special Education teacher Maggie Brezler said schools that have gone to block scheduling deal with the longer classes by breaking them down into three 30-minute sections, covering different topics or doing activities.

But even incorporating a variety of learning techniques into the longer classes could pose a problem for lower-level or special education students who may not be able to tolerate one subject for so long, she said.

It could have a negative effect on mainstreaming those students with the rest of the student body, Brezler added.

"For some kids, it's a hard struggle for even 45 to 50 minutes," Brezler said. "A lot of kids have attention problems. It's something we have a lot of concern about."

To keep the longer classes interesting, the teachers suggested they'll need more resources, like televisions and VCRs, more overhead projectors, and more space to allow for cooperative and group teaching.

Jay Heefner, a guidance counselor, spoke strongly in favor of block scheduling as an alternative to a failing system that's in place now.

"What we're doing right now isn't working," Heefner said, citing students lack of interest in classes and a poor attendance rate.

Though teachers, board members and some students have researched the subject and even spent time in schools that have block scheduling, some board members said they need more proof that it works, especially in terms of student achievement, before they support the change in Waynesboro.

"I don't know enough about it," said Leland Lemley. "I don't think we have enough data to make the decision."

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