Jury Still Out on the Eight-Period Schedule at WAHS

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By Connor Andrews

w-a_symbolThe 2010-2011 school year marked a significant change in the daily schedule of Albemarle County’s high schools. The county left the regular, seven-period class schedule to switch to the 4×4, eight-period schedule day. This change brought forth both supporters and critics who argued over whether the change enabled the schools to offer the students an extra class period was worth it or just decreased the class time dedicated to the seven other classes.

This extra period lets students double-up in certain core classes to pursue their interests, take a new elective, and also to take a study hall. Ideally, the extra class allows students to explore their academic interests, but it also can cause students to take on a schedule that may be too challenging or difficult for them personally.

“It’s sometimes allowing students to choose too many hard courses,” said Chuck Witt, a math teacher at Western Albemarle High School. “I can see them getting stressed out, burned out. I’ve got AP and Honors students who aren’t keeping up with homework and who are coming in for help, and it has been terrible this year trying to get people to make up tests. They have too much on their schedule.”

Adding more class periods to the schedule has decreased the amount of time dedicated to each period.

“We’ve lost over five weeks of class time by going from six periods to eight periods. We lost almost three of those weeks moving from seven to eight,” said Witt, “That’s three weeks of time in minutes, now it’s obviously not three calendar weeks, but in the equivalent of minutes, it’s three weeks of time we’ve lost.”

The added period has caused classes such as mathematics to accelerate their lesson plans while sometimes forcing these classes to drop certain aspects and lessons from their curriculum. “It hits math harder than anything, I think,” says Witt. He explained that when time is taken away from classes such as English and history, novels will be dropped from the class and events of history won’t be covered in depth. “In math you can’t say ‘well, we just won’t do this chapter this year’ then send them off to the next math course without having that because you’re sending them off with a gaping hole in their knowledge,” said Witt.

The number of students per teacher has also increased dramatically with the eight-period schedule. “All teachers had, last year, between 120 [and] 180 students. Witt and Hoza both had 175, low-end 120,” said Michelle Karpovich, a science teacher at Western. The increase in the number of students that teachers are having to teach has added to the teachers’ workload in terms of grading and also strains their ability to develop relationships with the students.

After just under three semesters, the schools’ class schedules for future years are still being debated. As of now, there is no official date for when next year’s schedule will be voted upon and decided, but people have begun to say that the vote will take place soon and may be discussed at the mid-January meeting.

Karpovich believes that the timing of this vote may have a “tremendous effect” on the result. The vote will take place after the newest member of the School Board, Ned Gallaway, has filled Harley Miles’s seat and possibly introduces a new opinion of the eight-period schedule.