Editor's note: This article was corrected from its original version. A speaker at Monday night's meeting was misidentified.
MOULTRIE, Ga. — Colquitt County High School is considering a change in schedule that, if approved by the county Board of Education, would give students four 90-minute classes each day instead of the current seven 50-minute ones.
CCHS Principal Dan Chappuis presented the proposal for block scheduling to the Colquitt County Board of Education Monday night and again on Tuesday for a group of parents, students and teachers.
“We are currently investigating implementing a block schedule. Students will earn a full credit for each course every semester. They will have the opportunity to earn eight credits per year as opposed to seven in our current schedule,” Chappius told the board on Monday.
Currently, students attend each of seven classes for 50 minutes each, and at the end of the semester they receive one-half credit. Most courses then require them to take a second class in a subsequent semester to receive the other half. If a student passes all his classes, he’ll have seven credits at the end of the year and 28 by the time he graduates.
Under the proposal, students would attend four classes for 90 minutes each. Each semester’s course is self-contained, so the student will get a full credit for passing. That adds up to four credits a semester, eight for the whole year and 32 by the time he graduates.
Chappuis said a 90-minute class would allow teachers to delve more deeply into their lesson as well as have time for more one-on-one instruction and small group activities. That should enable students to learn the material better.
Under block scheduling a student would have only four classes during a semester. Typically two would be academic subjects and the other two would be electives like agriculture, band or work-based learning, Chappuis said. That means the student would get to choose 50% of his classes — they’d be things he would want to come to school for — as opposed to about 40% of the classes on the current schedule. Plus it would open the door to students completing multiple pathways, which are series of classes that point the students toward college or a type of work.
In addition to deeper learning and motivation, Chappuis said the block schedule lets someone who fails a class take it in the second semester, rather than having to do credit recovery on a computer.
Altogether, the goal is to improve the school’s graduation rate, which is currently 85%. Chappuis said a block schedule can also improve Advanced Placement scores and reading skills and decrease disciplinary infractions and tardies.
“When we have big discipline events, they happen in transitions,” he said. Fewer classes means fewer transitions.
Chappius did admit to challenges that could be faced if the switch was made. A good master schedule will be needed to prevent a loss of continuity. That means a student may have the first half of a two-class set then have to wait until the following year for the second half.
Absences also have a bigger impact.
“Missing one day is like missing two on block… The teachers are trying to teach a year’s worth of curriculum in one semester,” Chappuis said.
Teachers will also have to be instructed on best teaching practices under the new system as they will be teaching for longer periods at a time and at a quicker pace, he said.
Members of the board did show concerns about the change, including Board Members Jon Schwalls and Trudie Hill. Both questioned Chappius on the schedule's effectiveness to help students who might not be able to keep up with the system or teacher’s effectiveness to teach under a new system.
A parent, Dartha Mcradi, told the board on Monday that she is concerned about the decision.
“I feel that we were not given enough head’s up before a decision was made…,” Mcradi said. “I know that these kinds of things are decided well before… With COVID and everything going on, I ask how students are going to be able to keep up if they miss one day due to illness.”
Her concerns were among many that were expressed at the meeting the following night.
Several parents were concerned about how their child would be able to do the things they enjoy — such as the schools’ multiple different bands or choirs — with space for only two electives in their schedules.
Chappuis and School Superintendent Ben Wiggins assured them there would be conflicts — there already are under the current system — but that counselors would help the students and parents work through them. Chappuis said he’s been working with the teachers and coaches to come up with ways to make electives more available, which might include a class before the regular school day or paying a teacher extra to teach a class during what’s supposed to be her planning period.
Wiggins said the school would need to hire more teachers, but not a lot more, to handle the schedule. Several teachers were concerned by this because they said the system is already suffering a shortage of teachers — as are many school systems across the country.
A concern was also raised about teacher training, and both Wiggins and Chappuis agreed that would be key to the success of the project.
Wiggins said, though, that block scheduling isn’t completely foreign to Colquitt County’s teachers. A hybrid model with block scheduling twice a week was in place 2002-2017, and many of the teachers from that period still work for the system.
Other teachers have transferred to Colquitt County from systems that were already on block scheduling, Chappuis said. He called them “the experts in the building.”
The Board of Education did not take any action on the issue Monday, but Wiggins said he expected to have a recommendation for them at the Dec. 13 meeting.
If approved then, Chappuis said, teachers will begin training during the spring and the block scheduling will start with the 2022-23 school year in August.