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WHS votes to approve modified block scheduling, now to Superintendent

Story published Nov. 30, 2013
Story published Nov. 30, 2013

Story broke here Nov. 20, 2013.

Wenatchee High School staff members voted this morning to approve a modified block schedule for the 2014-15 school year. The vote passed 63 to 37 percent, just three percent over the required 60-percent mark.

The modified block schedule would consist of four 85-minute class periods Tuesday through Thursday, and Monday and Friday would have six 42-minute periods per day. All five days will have a 13-minute long “nutrition” break which would replace the current PAWS/break, and lunch will be 40 minutes long, including the six minutes of passing time, compared with the current 35-minute lunch, including the five minutes of passing time. About 14 minutes would be added to class time each day under the schedule.

Voting took place this morning between 7 and 8 a.m. Votes were submitted in a room in the music department. A total of 120 staff members voted and no administrators were allowed to vote. All teachers were given the choice to vote and some did not because they arrived late, weren’t here today, or simply didn’t want to. A total of 122 certified staff members were eligible to vote.

“I think there are lots of good reasons to have block scheduling,” Dean of Students Mike Franza said. “When students wake up in the morning they have fewer classes to deal with, so when they go to bed at night they have fewer things to worry about for tomorrow. They have longer times in class to either develop relationships with teachers or get work done. So again, as long as the teachers are trained and prepared to do it the right way then it works out well.”

Principal Bob Celebrezze said if the proposal is approved by Wenatchee School District Superintendent Brian Flones and the school board, teachers will go through training because they are used to teaching in a certain time period. The training will teach them how to use the longer class periods effectively.

Flones said that the district is still working on the logistics of total time that students are in class before taking it to the school board.

“I think it’s got a lot of promise,” Flones said. He said that a major problem educators are facing is that there is not enough time or days to effectively teach. However, he does anticipate a learning curve for everyone involved.

“It will make for a more relaxed school atmosphere. I can only speculate that the superintendent will support my recommendation,” Celebrezze said.

So far, a mixed reaction has come from students. Out of the seven interviewed, four students disapproved, but remained optimistic about what the schedule could bring to WHS. “I’m going to hate being in class for that long but it’ll probably be really helpful,” junior Christaldo Rodriguez said.

Freshman Bryce Peters sees the block schedule as a helpful tool. “I like it because it’s going to give us more time to learn and work on our own,” Peters said.

Senior Ali Marboe doesn’t like the idea but will not be affected by it when she graduates. “I feel bad for all of the kids that have to go through block schedule,” Marboe said.

Teachers have mixed feelings as well. “Now that it is being proposed I hope we do it the right way,” said English teacher Dave Carlson, who opposed modified block scheduling. “I would like to know if it works for the students; I will support anything for the right reason.”

“I don’t know; I have questions about it,” math teacher Tom Alexander, another opponent, said. “It will be difficult for math and AP classes. Students doing sports will also be affected since they will miss a day and a half of school. I hope we make an objective evaluation at the end of one year. I am committed to making it work though.”

English Department Head Chris Cloke remains neutral. “I anticipated it would pass. I think there are emotional arguments for me. Student learning comes first and if this is something that will improve that I am all for it,” Cloke said. “It’s not a major shift. I feel like and a relaxed pace would benefit both students and staff. Why not try it? We can always go back.”

Originally suggested by Celebrezze, he will continue to push the proposal through school district administrators.

“The faculty wants to give each and every student the best opportunity possible to find success and happiness. This is one way to do that, it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” Celebrezze said.

Flones said students will notice additional time and the pace of the school day will have benefits that students haven’t experienced before. He looks forward to watching it progress.