TOWNSEND -- The North Middlesex Regional School Committee has reached an agreement with the district's teachers union, clearing the path for implementation of a new high school bell schedule for the upcoming school year.

On June 16, the committee and the union signed a memorandum of agreement adjusting the teachers' contract to allow for the change in scheduling, according to Superintendent Joan Landers.

Under the new system, referred to as a "5 x 8 modified block schedule," there will be five 70-minute blocks per day. Students will have eight separate class periods, which will alternate on the an eight-day rotation. The courses will remain the same for the entire school year.

The current system has the same four 87-minute blocks each day, with courses changing each semester.

Although the negotiations were done in closed executive sessions of the School Committee, Chairwoman Susan Robbins said there were no major issues, leading the negotiations to be completed quickly.

"Negotiations went very smoothly. We are lucky to have such a great group of teachers in our district," Robbins said.

Based on the agreement, teachers are guaranteed one full preparation period per day. The agreement also stipulates that the eight-day rotation schedule will be determined prior to the beginning of the school year, and that it will not change if school is canceled on a particular day.

The negotiations did not result in any changes in monetary compensation for teachers, only changes in working conditions, Landers said.

She also said the district is continuing to work on addressing changes to the Individualized Education Programs for special education students to make sure that each student is accommodated with the new schedule.

"The district was concerned about that and will be addressing that to meet each individaul student's schedule needs," Landers said.

The School Committee voted to pass the schedule change last month due to complaints from a group of vocal parents and students who claimed that the existing schedule made students unable to take all of the elective courses they wanted while fulfilling educational requirements.

The schedule change would also allow students to better prepare for a college style schedule, and to take consecutive classes without semester gaps in between, Landers said

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