By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND -- North Middlesex Regional School District Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers asked that a decision on altering the high school's bell schedule be tabled until she can obtain more feedback from those involved.
The idea of altering the school's academic bell schedule was first proposed in April to better prepare students for the newly implemented PARCC exam, which will replace the MCAS exam.
Currently, the high school operates on a 4-by-4 block schedule, and students can take up to eight classes or more each year.
As a state and district, beginning with the class of 2016, the Common Core curriculum will be addressed using the PARCC assessment system, which will require students in grades 9, 10 and 11 to be assessed twice in mathematics and English during the school year.
Because the district is a Race to the Top District, it is required to use the MassCore Program of studies to fulfill graduation requirements, and any new schedule must be able to accommodate the requirements.
Landers put out a survey after her initial presentation in April and asked parents, teachers and students to weigh in on a potential schedule change. But because of varying responses and strong feedback, Landers said it is best to address some of the concerns of interested parties before completely changing the schedule.
"I'm asking a decision on this be tabled for now because of insufficient feedback," she said. "The two public forums that were held suffered from a lack of attendance. Rather than make broad changes, I think it's best to address certain issues."
She said some of the biggest concerns she heard through the survey was not enough time between classes to move from room to room, a less competitive transcript compared to students from other districts, and limited options to Advanced Placement courses.
"Making a decision without the appropriate data and financial information would be detrimental to the educational needs of students," Landers said during Monday night's School Committee meeting.
The three possible options the district administration is looking at are:
n A 3-by-5 trimester schedule that would enable students to take eight or more classes annually, each about 70 minutes in length. Full-credit courses would run for two trimesters, and half-credit courses would run for one trimester. All full-credit courses would be split into "part A" and "part B" sections and would either run sequentially or be split into trimesters depending on the subject. There would be five instructional blocks per day, with teachers teaching four out of five.
n The eight-period drop schedule is a variation of the traditional bell schedule. Students would register for eight classes per term. Only five of the eight classes would meet per day, on a rotating basis. Each class would be 70 minutes long. Teachers would teach six out of the eight classes, which would enable common planning time two days per cycle.
n A six-period bell schedule with a rotating long block is another variation of a traditional bell schedule. Students would register for seven classes per term. Depending on the day of the cycle, students would have four 54-minute classes, one 75-minute class and one 48-minute class. Teachers would teach six out of the seven classes.
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