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WCPS chief: Proposed Smithsburg High School scheduling changes to take effect next school year

May 15, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • In this Herald-Mail file photo, Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox addresses a breakfast meeting. Wilcox said a proposed change to the schedule at Smithsburg High School will take effect in the next school year.
Herald-Mail file photo

After weeks of hearing feedback from parents about a proposed change to the schedule at Smithsburg High School and from school board members Tuesday night, county Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said the schedule change will take effect at Smithsburg High in the next school year.

The schedule change will be put in place at other high schools for the 2013-14 school year, Wilcox said after the meeting.

He said the change does not require a Washington County Board of Education vote, although he said in a previous interview he would like to have board support.

The move to a six-period day with yearlong courses for math, English, science, history and foreign languages would eventually be implemented at all seven comprehensive high schools — Boonsboro, Clear Spring, Hancock, North Hagerstown, Smithsburg, South Hagerstown, and Williamsport, said Rick Akers, director for secondary education, after his presentation to the board Tuesday.

The schedule change would not affect Washington County Technical High School, and school system officials are still considering whether it would be put into effect at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, Akers said.

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School system officials believe switching to a six-period day will provide the appropriate time needed for the more in-depth Common Core curriculum, a more rigorous curriculum that goes into effect in the school system starting with the 2013-14 school year, he said.

Currently, Smithsburg High is on a semester schedule with four, 90-minute classes per semester, Akers said.

The six-period day would provide classes that last about 59 minutes, providing students 42 extra hours a year for each of the core classes, he said.

Two parents, Kurt and Cathy Nigh, expressed concerns at the board meeting about students’ abilities to take electives under such a schedule, specifically band.

Concerns about students not having the ability to take as many electives or advanced-placement courses under the new schedule have been voiced by parents in recent weeks.

An online petition against the schedule change at Smithsburg High had at least 96 signatures at Change.org as of Tuesday night.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Akers said foreign language credits students earn at Smithsburg Middle count toward the credits needed for a University of Maryland “completer” course for graduation. That would free up time in high school for other classes, he said.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer said she favored the change.

Admitting she was risking the ire of teachers, Fischer, a retired teacher, said many 90-minute classes now don’t provide 90 minutes of teaching. Some classes include 60 minutes of teaching with the rest of the time given to students to do homework, she said.

Board member Paul Bailey said one advantage of the six-period day is student-athletes who need to leave school early for away games might miss less class time since several courses would be spread out over a year rather than one semester.

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