Laney High will move to block schedule

Lucy C. Laney High School will move to a block class schedule for the 2011-12 school year, which means students will have four 90-minute classes a day rather than the seven 55-minute classes as at other schools in the district.

Last year, Laney was the only school to implement an eight 50-minute classes schedule as one strategy within in its School Improvement Grant plan that was designed to improve student achievement.

Although students received more instruction time, the longer days created problems with transportation.

Their days began at 7:20 a.m., earlier than other schools in the district. Some Laney students who rode the same buses as students at schools with later start times ended up arriving at school as the first class was ending.

With the new block scheduling, students at Laney will be on the same daily schedule as A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School students, who begin at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m.

The schools will be able to combine routes to arrive to school on time, Laney Principal Tonia Mason said.

The Richmond County Board of Education unanimously approved the new schedule Tuesday.

Laney's transition to block scheduling will be a way to fix transportation issues that came with the school's eight-period day last year and might also serve as a model for other schools who believe extended instructional time on a subject enhances learning.

"In a 90-minute block, you have to continually change the activities of students, just because of the attention spans of students," acting Superintendent James Whitson said. "There is some research that suggests that given student reflection time ... that tends to improve student performance."

Laney will become the first school in the district to convert to block scheduling, where students attend four classes on Monday and Wednesday, a different set of four on Tuesday and Thursday and then alternate those sets each Friday.

The classes are still year-long but require students to focus on each subject for more minutes each day.

"We're having to teach differently," Mason said. "Our methodology will change and our student learning will change."

School board member Helen Minchew said other schools have expressed interest in the block scheduling. Although most principals have already designed the schedules for their students in preparation of the first day of school Aug. 8, Minchew said it should be an option for them in the future.

"They feel it will help their academic achievement for their students," she said. "There's some other schools out there that ... would like to do some type of block scheduling to help with their math and reading."

With a 55-minute period, Mason said, teachers often run out of time to fully close the lesson.

In block scheduling, teachers will have time to offer more activities and labs to work on each day.

"We are excited," Mason said. "It could be a model for the rest of the schools."

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