Superintendent Edward L. Kelly said he will recommend to the School Board that a common class schedule be adopted next year for Prince William's eight high schools, even though that could result in increased class sizes and staff reductions.
The findings of a student- and parent-led committee, formed at Kelly's request, prompted him to make the announcement last week. Kelly said the number of students who transfer within the county's public schools necessitates such a move, because a consistent schedule would help the district operate more smoothly and wouldn't hinder the achievement of students changing schools. But for some high schools, the study found, the staff might need to be reduced and class sizes might have to increase.
"I don't see any reason why there would be anyone who would lose their job," Kelly said, despite the conclusions of the Student Schedule Review Committee.
The committee--composed of a student, a parent, a teacher and an administrator from each high school, including the new Forest Park High--was instructed to review three possible schedule types and choose one. The committee deadlocked between two options, and Kelly decided that a "Seven Period Alternating--AB" (7A/B) schedule would work best for all schools.
Currently, three high schools--Gar-Field, Hylton and Stonewall Jackson--operate under the proposed schedule, which is composed of six 90-minute instructional blocks that meet on alternate days. The seventh slot would be a common class that would meet every day.
"We think this is the best way to go," Kelly said, noting that of the three proposed schedules, the 7A/B would be the least costly. He also said no schedule has been shown to be "better for academic achievement."
The remaining high schools--Brentsville, Osbourn Park, Potomac and Woodbridge--operate under a "Four-by-Four" block schedule, in which the school day is divided into four instructional blocks, or class periods, and students can earn up to four credits per academic semester. The last considered schedule was an 8A/B schedule, which, with the exception of allowing a student to take as many as eight classes, is similar to a 7A/B schedule.
The committee, after five meetings, ranked the 8A/B schedule first, the 7A/B schedule second and nearly eliminated the 4-by-4 schedule from any consideration. The 8A/B, Kelly said, would require teacher contracts to be extended by 30 minutes each day, a $4.3 million cost to the district. It also most likely would force the district to hire more teachers at a time when area schools have been hit with a teacher shortage.
But with the proposed 7A/B schedule, schools under 4-by-4 will have to purchase more textbooks, students will take fewer courses and earn fewer credits and teachers will lose long planning periods and joint planning periods each day. But still, Kelly said, it's the most viable option because it will allow the district to operate under a common schedule, which will help with the recording of student records and the scheduling of standardized tests.
Kelly said that schools would shoulder the cost of adopting a new schedule and buying more textbooks.
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday last week, no educators could be reached for comment on the proposed schedule.
In other education news, School Board Chairman Lucy S. Beauchamp (At Large) was selected to serve on the board of directors of the Virginia School Board Association. As one of four at-large members, Beauchamp will represent Virginia on the board.
"I am honored to be chosen," she said. "And I appreciate the support and confidence of school board members from across the commonwealth."