School district working on new blend of classes | TahoeDailyTribune.com

School district working on new blend of classes

William Ferchland

A schedule consisting of shorter classes and more electives is inching closer to reality for South Tahoe High School.

Principal Marcia Kaster told the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education she would like to see a vote on the preferred proposal, called a “blended four-by-four,” at the next meeting May 10.

The proposed school year consists of two terms with four classes lasting 86 minutes. Compared to this year’s layout, it means an additional two classes per school year that will escalate class choice and eventually raise the number of units required for graduation.

Kaster said a change is needed. For roughly a decade the school embraced a yearlong block schedule of six 113-minute classes interchanged over two days.

Kaster believes the alteration will create a flexible schedule that will boost interest, motivation and attendance at the school.

In addition, there is a chance teachers can track classroom production better by seeing students all five school days.

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“It is an attempt to move forward,” Kaster said. She is in her second year as the school’s principal.

Another proposal keeps the revolving block schedule, but shortens it to 101-minute classes with a 45-minute class at the end of the day for academic support classes, study groups, physical education or other classes.

The four-by-four schedule can be tweaked for various students and subjects. Those in band can have two options of when to take the class (instead of one) and trade off every other day with an academic subject, such as a foreign language or algebra.

Student athletes and yearbook participants can take a shorter 45-minute class at the end of the day, allowing them time to compete or work without missing chunks of instructional time, officials said.

In the proposal, at least a pair of academic classes will be taken by students during each of the two 18-week terms. The remaining two classes could be filled with electives, a tutoring period, or, for freshmen, a mandatory course on high school success.

Some classes, such as band, advanced drama, chorus, yearbook and Naval Junior ROTC, would last all year.

Teachers, in turn, would teach three classes daily with a segment reserved for preparing lessons or grading work.

Instructor Bob Grant, a member of the steering committee investigating schedule structures, said changing the schedule is like “rebuilding a car engine” but will motivate students.

“The whole thing is filled with incentives,” he said.

Students who accumulate credits early can decide to have three periods a day, clearing the way for skiing in the afternoon or arriving at school later.

Those who falter will be assigned to tutor rooms or have to repeat the class.

At the meeting Tuesday, parent Jeanie Cerceo was concerned that sports participants could continually miss the last class period for games and have to play a never-ending game of academic catch up.

While the early out or 45-minute class will help, Kaster said the four-by-four schedule will be an evaluated pilot program that can be tailored next year if approved by the board next month.

“Without data it’s just an opinion,” she said.

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