The Hall County school board may adopt a hybrid schedule for its high schools that would allow the system to operate with about 35 fewer teachers next school year.
All six traditional high schools and the Lanier Charter Career Academy operate on some variation of a block schedule. A straight block schedule has four long classes each day, but the Hall County school board is considering a shift to a hybrid schedule with three days of a traditional seven-period class day and two days of four block periods.
The move would save the system between $2.5 million and $3 million annually, estimates Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield. He said the hybrid model would reduce the faculty at each of the system’s seven high school programs by five to six teachers.
Schofield said the shift to a hybrid schedule would allow the school system to maximize personnel. In the straight block model, teachers spend one 90-minute period a day, or 25 percent of their work day, in a planning period. The hybrid model would reduce teachers’ planning periods to about 14 percent of their work day.
As the state’s economic outlook remains bleak, the Hall school board is preparing for more state cuts to education. Schofield said the block schedule model is the least efficient model high schools can use in terms of resources.
"This is the last rock we haven’t yet turned over," he said. "... We have an obligation to ask ourselves, ‘Are we being wise stewards of the limited resources we have?’"
Schofield said because there is no evidence that one scheduling model provides better instruction than another, the board is considering the less costly hybrid model that all public high schools use in Forsyth County. The block schedule model has been used in Hall high schools for about 10 years.
"There hasn’t been any ideas that show high school scheduling modules increase or reduce student achievement. If you have an effective teacher, good things happen," he said.
Schofield acknowledges the hybrid schedule has pluses and minuses, but its primary plus is that it could save the system as much as $3 million a year.
The hybrid schedule also would provide more continuity for math and foreign language classes and create more opportunities for credit recovery programs, he said. The hybrid model also would prevent students from being able to take 25 percent of their high school classes in physical education, for example. But it would cause teachers to have less planning time, and if teachers do not communicate, many assignments and tests could land on the same day.
In addition, the board still is considering reducing its graduation requirement from 28 units to 23 units, which is the state requirement.
Schofield said, however, that the board is looking at some 28-units plus five post-secondary units and community service options that would challenge high schoolers to be acknowledged as scholars or exemplary scholars upon graduation. The reduction of unit requirements for graduation would not save the system money, Schofield said, but it would allow more students to reach graduation.