Georgetown principals at odds on 7-period schedule

Speaking on behalf of their teachers, students and community, Georgetown County high school principals gave the Georgetown County School Board their views Tuesday on a proposed change from block scheduling to a seven-period schedule.

And the views were pretty mixed.

The principals from Carvers Bay and Waccamaw high schools were undoubtedly supportive of the switch, while Georgetown High School's principal was against it and the Andrews High School principal had concerns but said she would support a gradual switch.

In the current system, students take four classes at a time, then switch to four others later in the year. The scheduling change has been proposed as a way to improve thedistrict's test scores, specifically the end-of-course tests, which now can often cover subjects taught months before.

But Michael Cafaro, Georgetown High School principal, said he did not think the schedule was the reason for low test scores.

"If the problem is test scores then what we need to do is take a look at the test and see," he said. "If the air conditioning in my house is broken ... I don't blow up the house."

Cafaro said he was concerned about the amount of homework students will have, since they would go from having four classes at a time to seven.

He said many students wouldn't have the help they need at home and that it "makes a lot more sense to have the teacher in the classroom rather than send them home with homework where they might not have the help."

He said he also was concerned that the dropout rate would increase because students wouldn't easily be able to retake a class the next semester if they failed it the previous semester.

But Richard Neal, the Carvers Bay High School principal, said he thought the dropout rate could decrease under the new schedule.

"We wouldn't have that built-in failure," he said. "I think we would be shifted from that mind-set and see improvements."

He said by having core classes yearlong, students would retain more of what they were taught.

Michelle Staggers, the Andrews High School principal, said she was concerned about the number of classroom hours students would have per year, and about the safety of the school with the increased class transition time. But she said she would support the school transitioning over the next few years, starting with its 9th- and 10th-graders, to the seven period schedule.

At the end of the meeting Cathy Jones, the parent of a Georgetown High School student, went before the board and said she was concerned about how the switch would affect students wanting to take Advanced Placement or honors classes and did not feel that those concerns were being addressed enough.

She said her daughter wants to take a full eight-class schedule of AP, Honors and other advanced classes next year, but she wouldn't be able to do that if the schedule is changed.

The board took no action on the matter Tuesday night, but Superintendent Randy Dozier said he would likely make a recommendation to the board at its next meeting March 1.