School districts get ready to use block schedules

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

Two area school districts are joining a number of other districts across Northeast Mississippi as they plan for a change to block scheduling in the high schools for the 2010-2011 school year.
Under block scheduling, class periods will be lengthened to 94 minutes, up from the current 48 minutes, and students will take four classes per semester, fewer than they do now.
The longer class periods have been credited with improving student achievement by giving students more time to complete the work, more lab time and more chances to do team projects, among other benefits.
The Prentiss County school board has taken the proposal under advisement to begin using the system this year, while the Alcorn County School District adopted the plan a couple of months ago.
“We’ve talked about this for several years,” said Brenda Bolen, Prentiss County schools test coordinator, who presented the block schedule proposal to the school board. “When some of the other school districts around us were going to the block schedule, we would have kids who transferred in who were on the block and who transferred out on the regular schedule, so it made it hard for them to get the credits they needed to graduate.”
A highly touted benefit of the block schedule is that it enables students to complete eight credits a year compared to the six or seven credits they can accumulate on a schedule with six or seven classes each day.
After accruing the required 24 credits to graduate, students could take advanced placement courses or seek dual high school-college enrollment and take college credits during those additional class periods.
“We’re in transition right now, going ahead with planning of courses we’re going to offer,” Bolen said. “We’re meeting once a week until the end of school with administrators and counselors for course offerings and to fine-tune schedules.”
Alcorn County hopes to be able to conduct a trial run of their block schedule some time before the end of the current school year, said Superintendent Stacy Suggs.