Tupelo High School to use block schedule

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo High School will switch to a block schedule next fall.
The 2,100-student school currently has eight 50-minute periods. Under the new schedule, it will have four 94-minute periods. Those courses will be completed in a semester, and students will take four different classes during their second semester.
THS nearly switched to a block schedule this year but delayed the move after Interim Superintendent David Meadows determined it would be too dramatic of a change for a school with a new superintendent and a new principal. He said the school needed time to focus on other initiatives first.
New principal Jason Harris met with the school’s faculty about the possible change and found an overwhelming majority favored using a block schedule for the 2012-13 school year. In an anonymous survey of 123 THS teachers, 117 of them (94 percent) favored the block schedule, Harris said.
“It is beneficial to students as well as teachers,” Harris said. “Teachers will be able to focus on 75 students in a semester instead of 150.”
One advantage of the schedule is it will allow teachers to go more in-depth with their lessons, Harris said.
Students also will be able to take an additional course each year. Most students are now limited to seven credits in an academic year, but the new schedule will allow them to take eight. Harris said at Tuesday’s school board meeting that the school could request raising its graduation requirement from 26 credits to 28.
Harris said research on Mississippi’s 26 Star high schools revealed that 20 of them were using block schedules. Star is the highest ranking in Mississippi’s accountability system.
He said he hopes the new schedule encourages students to attempt more challenging classes because they will be taking fewer courses at one time. In the past, if students took two advanced placement classes in a year, they would be enrolled in both simultaneously. Now they can take one each semester, he said.
Teachers will begin training in January to prepare for the system and learn how to best use the longer periods. Much of that training will be done through Kagan, an educational professional development company.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com