School schedule raises ire | TahoeDailyTribune.com

School schedule raises ire

William Ferchland

With bugs left to be worked out and some students needing to be reassured, a new South Tahoe High School schedule will make its debut when students return to campus in September.

Called the 4-by-4 schedule for having four classes in two terms, school administrators say it will offer more classes, electives and opportunities, while some students say it will impact their future.

The new schedule will replace one consisting of six classes throughout the year with three occurring in blocks every other day.

A report on the new high school schedule will be presented to the Lake Tahoe Unified Board of Trustees at its 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

Students unhappy

While supporters of the 4-by-4 praise its efficiency in offering electives and course credits, some students are grumbling about the change.

One criticism, or worry, is a student having to take an Advanced Placement course in the first term while the test on the course is administered in May.

Sam Verzatt, an incoming junior and Advanced Placement student, said the plan by the school to offer refreshers on the material is unrealistic.

“That’s not going to help,” he said. “I took an AP test this year and it was brutally hard having this schedule. I couldn’t imagine losing three months.”

Verzatt’s mother, Lori London, thought the new schedule will “lower the standards of the curriculum.”

Junior Tatianna Peck has several gripes, including the possibility of taking Spanish in the first term, not having it the second and the chance of having the foreign language class in the second term of the next school year, essentially not having it for a year.

“Foreign language builds on top of itself in order for (a student) to flourish and become proficient at it,” she argued.

Peck also disliked the possibility of splitting band and orchestra classes into different terms, since she enjoys the days when the two meet to combine their musical strengths.

In addition, if orchestra is in the second term it could prevent members from participating in certain events, such as one in Anaheim in the fall, Peck said.

“I really don’t appreciate being a guinea pig for this,” she said.

Administrator confident

Principal Marcia Kaster, although she retired after this school year and the district has not yet found her replacement, is confident the schedule will work. Help was received from a Union Mine High School consultant who has experience in implementing the schedule at the West Slope school. Union Mine has had a 4-by-4 schedule for about 10 years.

Also, Kaster said she’ll make herself available by telephone or even through drop-in visits.

“I envision that it’s going to be very well-received by everybody,” she said. “I think change is difficult and embarking on change causes a lot of concern. We need to work out a lot of pieces.”

New electives include forensic science, marine biology, creative writing, science fiction, Latin American literature, film making, astronomy and journalism.

Verzatt dismissed the new electives as not helping him get into college.

“I’d rather have a system where I can take AP classes and fewer electives,” he said.

Support classes will also be instituted. Those who struggle on standardized tests and the California High School Exit Exam will be assigned to classes designed to strengthen their math and English skills.

A freshman orientation class will also be available.

“We’ve noticed many ninth-grade failures and when it comes to why they’re failing, it’s really their study habits and the transition year from middle school to high school,” Kaster said.

An attraction for counselor Aaron Barnett is the structure of the schedule for students wanting an early out of school. In the previous schedule, students could take five of the six classes. In the 4-by-4, students wanting a minimum day can take six of the eight classes.

More opportunities to learn

Moreover, the schedule will provide students studying English as their second language, a key subgroup in standardized tests, more opportunities to learn.

“Those students will be having their English all year long, every day, rather than every other day,” Barnett said.

Student Grace Butler said she is on board with the schedule. An AP student, Butler didn’t think the delay in taking a class and taking the test would be difficult. Plus, she likes to chance to take more math and science courses.

“Personally, for me, my electives are more challenging classes,” she said. “I think an increase in classes will help out a lot with getting the credits we need to get into better schools.”

The school start time will remain at 7:55 a.m. as will the end time of 2:40 p.m.

Kaster said all students have been enrolled for classes next school year. Students will receive their schedules in the summer and have the opportunity to meet with counselors two days before the start of school on Sept. 5.

Kaster said her retirement will have minimal impact on the schedule’s implementation.

“I regret a little not being here to see it to fruition, but I think I’m an important but not the most important part,” she said.

Verzatt said he plans to take courses at Lake Tahoe Community College to safeguard against shortcomings of the new schedule. Peck said she will keep a watchful eye and hope her voice is being heard.

“I hope it works out,” Peck said. “I’d rather be wrong and have it work out all fine. I’m trying to be optimistic about it but at this point I’m confused and upset about it.”


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