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Hall schools move away from block schedule
Change means fewer staff members needed, superintendent says
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Hall County schools
In other business, the Hall County Board of Education:

  • Approved a waiver request to the state Board of Education asking for spending flexibility, increasing the maximum class size by one to three students and extending instruction time to support at-risk students. The board approved the request in anticipation of continued financial hardship.
  • Approved a resolution of intent notifying the state Board of Education of the Hall school board’s plan to take out nearly $3 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds to finance wireless internet and video conference technology throughout the district. Also, a portion of the bonds would finance technology for the new Lanier Charter Career Academy addition.

The Hall County Board of Education unanimously approved a high school schedule change for next school year that will shift high schools from a four-period block schedule to a hybrid seven-period day schedule.

Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said he estimates the more staff-efficient schedule will allow high schools to operate with about 35 fewer teachers, which annually saves the district between $2.5 million and $3 million.

Schofield said he expects natural attrition will account for staff reductions at the district’s high schools, and some high school teachers may be redirected to middle school positions.

He said 35 to 50 high school teachers typically leave the system or retire each year.

"We don’t envision people losing jobs," he said.

While Hall County Education Association President and Hall teacher Steve Wang spoke against the schedule change at the board meeting, several parents spoke in favor of the schedule change.

Wang said though many teachers do not support the change, they will do their best to work within the new schedule.

Lori Thompson, a former Hall County school board member and parent of a Johnson High School graduate, said she supports the shift away from block scheduling and favors the traditional school day model.

"I don’t think there’s anything that’s been worse for our education system than block scheduling," she said. "...When you have block scheduling, you’re so limited on what (courses) you can take."

Thompson said she believes the 90-minute periods in block scheduling are too long for students, and the block periods are not effective in preparing students for college.

Thad McCormack, a parent of a North Hall High School student, said he’s never been in favor of block scheduling because it allows students to take up to 25 percent of their high school courses in physical education. He told the board he supports its decision to return to a more traditional schedule which does not leave gaps between math courses, for example.

Hall school board member Nath Morris said the hybrid schedule will allow some extended time for certain courses that require longer periods to better serve students. He said teachers and administrators must work together and plan well for the schedule change to prevent students from being overloaded on homework and having too many tests on the same day.

"Now the real work begins," Schofield said.

He said teachers and high school administrators will begin designing the hybrid schedule to see which courses will best serve students in short or long periods. He said also that staff will determine which courses, if any, have a lack of student interest and can be eliminated to more efficiently use teachers.

In addition, the board unanimously approved the district’s reduction in graduation requirements from 28 course units to 23 course units, which mirrors the state minimum requirement.

Hall school board Chairman Richard Higgins said the 23-unit graduation requirement will help more students obtain their high school diploma, while challenging high achieving students to pursue the district’s scholar and exemplary scholar seals that require high-level course work and community service.