High schools to revise 2018-19 class schedules

Liz Marino/Douglas County Sentinel

The principals from Douglas County's five high schools came together Monday night during the work session of the Douglas County Board of Education to share changes in class schedules for the 2018-2019 school year. The principals were charged with doing research and gathering information to make an informed decision about what is best for their students and school communities. From left, are Andre Weaver, principal, Douglas County High School; Sean Kelly, principal, Chapel Hill High School; Garrick Askew, principal Lithia Springs High School; Marco Holland, principal, New Manchester High School and Nathan Hand, principal, Alexander High School.

There will be some changes made in Douglas County high school class schedules for the 2018-2019 school year.

Discussions and research have been conducted by principals and district staff to determine whether current schedules are meeting the needs of the school communities and if the current schedules are providing the best scenario for teaching and learning in each of the county's five high schools, Pam Nail, chief academic officer, said during Monday night's Board of Education work session.

Research determined that there is no scheduling system where one-size-fits-all between the three schedule models, according to the research presented before the board members, which includes a year-long AB Block; year-long eight period day; and 4X4 schedule.

Nail said, "Under all options, students take eight classes each year and 32 credits during their high school career and teachers see the same number of students."

She said decisions were made based on achievement data, scheduling needs/challenges for the student population, along with parent, student and staff input and weighing the pros and cons of each scheduling option.

When the new school year begins, Alexander High School will be on the year-long eight period day; Chapel Hill High School, Douglas County High School and New Manchester High School will be on the 4X4 schedule and Lithia Springs High School will be on the year-long AB block.

All of the schedule models are alike in that all will offer students eight classes over the course of the school year and the possibility of earning eight credits each year with 32 over the high school career, Nail said. The approximate number of students that a teacher teaches is 180 in all three models. However in the 4X4 schedule, a teacher will have 90 students per semester.

Students will continue to attend four classes each day on a rotating year-long AB block at Lithia Springs High School, according to Principal Garrick Askew. He said that 2010-2011 was the last year that the school used the 4X4 block.

"This gives the student year-long contact with their teachers," he said. "If the student is not doing well, the student has the opportunity to have a full-year of instruction with the same teacher."

Alexander High School will use a "modified straight eight" schedule, where students will have eight classes of 45 minutes each day, said Principal Nathan Hand. He said that in 2012, the high school operated on a block schedule, which he said was "easier to manage but teachers thought it was important to see students all year long."

Chapel Hill, Douglas County and New Manchester High Schools will be using the 4X4 block beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

Chapel Hill High School Principal Sean Kelly said the high school is currently using the AB block, where students go to eight classes year-long on alternate days.

"I would like to switch to the 4X4 block," Kelly said. "We initiated a survey and everyone feels it is more beneficial to the students. We will be teaching math all year long for underachieveing students who need extra help."

He said, "We feel we will be able to promote a better academic experience by teaching 90 students at a time. We are very excited to be entertaining this at Chapel Hill High School."

Douglas County High School will be offering the 4X4 block during the new school year, according to Principal Andre Weaver, but some adjustments will have to be made, he said, because the high school's International Baccalaureate (IB) program cannot be on the block schedule.

He said he contacted two other IB schools, North Atlanta and Campbell, which do an alternating block schedule for their programs.

Weaver said 75 percent of his faculty wanted to offer the 4X4 block and some 2,000 people completed the survey toward making the change.

There are both benefits and challenges in offering the 4X4 program, he said. "We are looking for options for AP classes depending on what the teachers feel the needs are."

Students will take math classes all year long, Weaver explained, with higher-achieving students taking math during the same semester each year.

New Manchester High School will also be moving into the 4X4 block during the 2018-2019 school year.

Principal Marco Holland said the high school was currently under the AB Block, from which he felt, "many students had too many classes at one time."

Holland said by moving into the new scheduling model, it would reduce his teachers' teaching load by 50 percent.

"I feel the 4X4 will give New Manchester High School a benefit to our students," he said.

Following the presentations of each high school principal, Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North said that he had his own personal favorite schedule.

"Principals are responsible for the success of their students," he said. Then he added, "Each choice was my favorite."

The next meeting of the Douglas County Board of Education is Monday, Feb. 12. At that time, the BOE will vote on recommendations for the purpose of classroom and office furniture for the new addition at Lithia Springs High School in the spring of 2018.

The BOE will also vote on the purchase of math instructional resources for grades 1 through 5 from Pearson/Envision at a cost of $947,612.02 and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Go Math for grades 6 through 8 at a cost of $692,925.17.

The following personnel changes will take place effective July 1, 2018:

• Melanie Manley, Principal of Holly Springs Elementary, was appointed Area Executive Director.

• Cheryl Handley, Special Education Supervisor, was appointed Special Education Director.

• Maria Life, Transportation Coordinator, was appointed Transportation Director.

• Quincy McNair, Transportation Manager in DeKalb County Schools, was appointed Transportation Assistant Director.

The following DCSS teachers were appointed Elementary Content Specialists effective July 1, 2018:

• Lauren Cook and K'Asha Davis, English Language Arts

• Tammy Morris, Art

• Samantha Shipp, Social Studies

• Nicole Smith-Hall, Math

• Tanish Springer, Science

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