A student survey shows Columbia County high school students want the chance to take additional courses, but not if it extends their school day.
Although the county's four high schools might not be moving toward a block schedule, the schools have been given the go-ahead to meet with committees and discuss what changes -- if any -- should be made next year.
"They do have some flexibility in how they might work a schedule as long as they do not decrease any of the instructional time and do nothing that would require a waiver from the state," Associate Superintendent Jonnie Ghetti said.
At this point in the school year, administrators said they would not introduce a drastic change to add courses. But some schools are looking at ways to expand class time and target at-risk students.
In a recent survey of ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders, 65 percent responding said they would take additional classes if given the opportunity. Nearly 56 percent said they preferred those opportunities in an alternative schedule rather than extending the normal school day or a summer program.
About 4,100 surveys were sent out, with about 1,400 students, or 34 percent, responding.
The push toward an alternative school day schedule was slowed in November in anticipation of education reform measures by Gov. Roy Barnes.
Columbia County school officials have spent more than two years looking at ways to offer more courses and the benefits of longer class periods. Previously, the school system considered a four-by-four block schedule that would break up the school year into two semesters -- each with four, 90-minute classes. The current school day consists of six 55-minute classes. So students would earn eight credits in a school year instead of six.
Concerns over the four-by-four block, however, led school officials to study other options, such as adding an extra period.
Principals at Evans and Lakeside high schools said they plan to meet with their school committees -- made up of parents and teachers -- to discuss survey results and options. But those principals said they don't want to introduce a dramatic schedule change this late in the year, especially when reforms could change how schools are controlled.
Greenbrier and Harlem high schools are looking at a secondary schedule for certain students. The focus would be more on reducing failure and drop-out rates rather than offering more courses. Greenbrier High Principal Gloria Hamilton said her school is considering a six-period vs. seven-period school day by shortening lunch and expanding class time.
Harlem High Principal Barry Hemphill said he hopes to rejuvenate Project Success, which targeted students at risk for dropping out of school. The program allows targeted students to take two core classes a semester in 110-minute blocks -- the equivalent of two periods. Those students would take electives in the standard 55-minute period. The school discontinued the program about three years ago because of teacher shortages.
Greenbrier High is considering a similar schedule for rising ninth-grade technical-prep students and seniors with academic difficulties.
"We think it would help our at-risk kids and impact our drop-out rate and failure rate in a positive way," Mr. Hemphill said. "We've got to get our registration numbers to see what we're dealing with and see if we can schedule it."
Reach Peggy Ussery at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112.