Students at Little Wolf High School will have some major changes to their class schedule when the new school year starts.
That’s because the Manawa School District will be switching to a block schedule for the high school.
Duane Braun, principal of Manawa High School, said a true block schedule consists of four, 90-minute classes during a day.
Currently, the students attend eight, 45-minute classes during each day of school.
“We will be implementing a little bit of a modified block which has what they call ‘skinnies’ in them,” Braun said. “We will be doing a modified block which will have 90 minutes in the regular block classes. A skinny will be a 45-minute period, so we are doing a little bit of both.”
Braun said the 45-minute class slots will be used for band and choir, as well as a few other courses.
Teachers will also be able to use some of that time for preparing for classes.
Currently, there is only one school district in the conference – Amherst – that is using a block schedule.
Ed Dombrowski, district administrator for the Manawa School District, noted that there are several other school districts in the vicinity that utilize block scheduling.
Dombrowski said he isn’t concerned about being only the second school in the conference to use block scheduling.
“I think there is a uniqueness that exists that is an alternative for those who attend regular scheduled schools. They will take a look at this because not everybody thrives in the same environment,” Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski said the use of a block schedule should also help with the student-teacher relationship.
“It allows teachers and students to really get to know one another,” Dombrowski said. “That’s really the major benefit, because now, me as a teacher, instead of seeing this student for 45 minutes, now it’s a 90-minutes block, I get to understand the student a little bit more.”
Braun said that switching to a block schedule will allow the school district to offer a wider range of course offerings.
CAPP Spanish, AP Chemistry, AP History, Statistics and CAPP Literature are being added to the course offerings for the next school year. During February’s school board meeting, the board did approve adding a Business Education Program and teacher for the 2012-13 school year.
Since students will be taking four classes during the day instead of the current eight, the classes will involve more intense instruction time for the students because they will be completing a year-long course in a semester’s time.
“It gives them a chance to focus on a subject and work at it and provides them more opportunities throughout the course of the year by being able to have exposure to more classes,” Braun said.
Dombrowski said each block will contain activities. “Usually you want to have anywhere from six to seven activities during a 90-minute session,” Dombrowski said.
The majority of the high school teachers were in favor of switching to the block schedule. Dombrowski said this switch will mean the teachers will have to adjust their teaching methods, though.
“If you are going to have someone who is going to sit and lecture for 90 minutes there will be a lot of sleeping time in class. But that’s not the purpose. The teachers are going to need to be a little bit more project based, a little more activity based,” Dombrowski said. “Teachers who are not trained well really stick out. But teachers who are very good also stick out. Those that need help, we will provide the training. Those who will thrive will really thrive.”
Braun said the teaching staff has observed at Amherst and Kimberly high schools which presently use the block schedule. Also, most of the teachers will be participating in a teaching strategies class by Bill Banks offered through Viterbo University.
“We want to give them (teachers) the tools that will allow them to keep the kids active the full 90 minutes,” Braun said.
Not only will it be an adjustment for the teachers, but the students will also need to make adjustments. Dombrowski said the block schedule will create a college-type atmosphere when it comes to picking classes. Braun said students will have to be mindful when choosing their classes each semester. This will require working closely with the guidance department.
The graduation requirements will also need to be adjusted. Currently, 25 credits are required to graduate. Braun said the administration will recommend to the school board to raise the requirement to 28 credits because of the block schedule.
Both Dombrowski and Braun said the benefits of the block schedule outweigh the few negatives and the adjustments that will have to be made by teachers and students.
“It’s providing opportunities that we haven’t been able to provide. By expanding our offerings, it provides opportunities,” Dombrowski said.
Braun added, “We want to challenge these kids so they are college and career ready. We want to challenge them before they walk out the door, so with going with this we’re giving them more opportunities, giving them exposure to the college atmosphere and still making sure they get a quality education before they leave here.”