By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

OXFORD – The Oxford City School Board has moved to postpone voting on a proposed class scheduling change for high school students, with a decision not expected until at least December.

The board had originally planned to decide this month on implementation of a new scheduling system but decided to delay the vote after several parents and educators expressed concern.

“There were just a lot of questions left unanswered, so we decided to wait,” said board member T.J. Ray. “I know I wasn’t ready to vote on it. I’m happy that I didn’t have to. Now, we will have time to look at the different options.”

School officials say they hope to receive board approval for the switch by December, with full implementation coming in the fall of 1997.

Under the proposed four-by-four scheduling system, yearlong classes would meet for only one semester in extended time periods. Typically, four-by-four classes last about 95 minutes each, with the day divided between four classes.

Oxford students – like students in Tupelo – now attend the same seven classes each day for an equal amount of time.

Lee County schools use block scheduling, which is patterned after the scheduling systems seen on most college campuses, with one set of classes meeting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and another on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some other Northeast Mississippi schools using the system are: Bruce High School, Houlka High School, Mantachie Attendance Center, North Pontotoc High School and New Site High School in Prentiss County.

Uninterrupted classroom time

Advocates of the four-by-four system say it is more effective because it gives students more uninterrupted classroom time.

Some teachers have complained because they say the current scheduling system does not provide enough time for labs and other hands-on activities that are a part of current reform moves.

Oxford High School Principal John “Mack” Curlee said he wants to implement the system to give failing first-semester students a second chance in the spring.

“There are students that in November know they are well behind and will have a hard time bringing their grades up to pass by spring,” said Curlee, who visited several schools that use the system. “They become frustrated and either drop out or in some cases become behavior problems for teachers. I know this is not utopia – a perfect answer. But it would give students some hope of passing.”

Four-by-four scheduling also makes it possible for students to take eight yearlong classes, compared to the current maximum of seven.

Curlee said he recommended to Superintendent John W. Jordan that the planned scheduling switch be postponed.

“I wasn’t comfortable with the time frame,” he said. “This will give us time to answer some questions and to adapt to the changes before implementing in the ’97-’98 school year.”

Retaining information

One of the biggest criticisms of the scheduling system is that it leads to a decline in the amount of information retained from year to year. For example, students who finish English III in the fall might not take English again until 12 months later.

Less disciplined students who are unaccustomed to longer class periods also tend to find themselves struggling to stay alert for 90 or 95 minutes. Also, students transferring during the school year from districts that do not use four-by-four scheduling would be behind.

Starkville High School – one of only 63 Mississippi schools using the four-by-four method – holds extended sessions after school to help those students catch up. Curlee said he would like to provide the same services at Oxford High if the scheduling change is approved.

No Northeast Mississippi Schools use four-by-four scheduling, with most of the districts that do use it being found in Southern Mississippi, particularly along the Coast.

In interviews conducted in November by the Mississippi Department of Education, 87 percent of teachers and administrators at schools using the four-by-four system said it was effective. About 88 percent said they would like to see the system continued.

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