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AHS may bring block back

Posted: Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2013

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Teachers in search of more planning time and an administration trying to accommodate the state’s demands could bring block scheduling back to Alamosa High School (AHS).

On Monday, Alamosa High School Principal Glen Hodges shared the possible plans for change with the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) during its regular meeting.

He said the request to revert back to block scheduling, which was replaced only two years ago with a seven class period schedule due to budget cuts, came during the 2011-2012 school year from teachers looking to have more preparation time associated with classes falling on alternate days of the week.

He added it could also help AHS carry out the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) mandated initiatives like ICAP (Individual Career and Academic Plans).

ICAP is a CDE initiative “to ultimately decrease dropout rates and increase graduation rates by assisting students in developing and maintaining a personalized postsecondary plan that ensures readiness for postsecondary and workforce success.”

The initiative is “designed to assist a student and his or her parent or legal guardian in exploring the postsecondary career and educational opportunities available to the student, aligning course work and curriculum, applying to postsecondary education institutions, securing financial aid and ultimately entering the workforce.”

The AHS Building Leadership Team (BLT) is developing three different scheduling options. Hodges said the options were a “hybrid” of block and period scheduling, and an “access” period, which is similar to a traditional homeroom class. The access period would most likely take place in the mid-morning and would mimic the practice Ortega Middle School (OMS) already has in place for about 30 minutes at the end of the school day.

“The end of the day for us means the kids would cut out,” Hodges said. “This is an opportunity for teachers to bond and really know their kids.”

The access period would allow students to meet with teachers for extra help, permit each counselor to meet with their 280 students to meet ICAP requirements and provide students extra time to complete homework or study.

“It could be a lot of different things,” Hodges said. “Right now, everyone is losing class time in order to meet the ICAP mandates.”

The scheduling options also include an extended access period once a week, he said. This would allow students more time for extra help, and teachers an extra hour or two a semester.

ABOE Official Keith Vance expressed concerns that the access period would “develop into a play period” and that the students would lose a sense of responsibility.

“That is a fear,” Hodges agreed. “We haven’t had this (a homeroom style period) forever. I think the teachers see the benefit of the time.”

Vance was also concerned the access period would become a burden for teachers that he said are already so strapped they are being “superficial” with their grading and critiques.

Hodges stressed the teachers would not have to devote any time to planning for the access period because regardless if the access period exists, the teachers have to incorporate extra help sessions and tutoring into their daily lessons. He added teachers are considering working together during the access period to be more effective and to possibly provide more individual teaching planning time.

ABOE Official Christine Haslett said she supported the idea because it gives students a sense of stability.

“Some kids don’t have that at home and no one cares,” Haslett said. “I don’t think this is babying them through. They need to know someone cares.”

Hodges added, “We have a lot of kids that don’t have that person. I don’t see it as coddling, but having someone to hold them accountable... We have to try to do everything we can to move these kids forward. It is something to try.”

Before the decision is made, he said AHS would make a formal recommendation to the ABOE based on staff input on the scheduling options. Previous scheduling changes have not gone before the board since approval is not required.

“There is lots of stuff out there,” Hodges said in reference to the many education reforms coming down the pipeline. “It’s just trying to fit it all together.”

In other ABOE news

•The Alamosa School District (ASD) was not selected for the bus rebate grant. Districts in 18 states received the grant dollars including one Colorado school district. The ASD is number 410 on the waiting list.

•The 2013-2014 ASD calendar should be approved this month.

•GE Johnson will make a formal presentation on the athletic complex/ vo ag building project at the ABOE’s regular meeting on Tuesday, January 19.

•AHS students are considering forming a Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) group.

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