No Consensus on SHS/SRTC Scheduling, But Decision Expected 11/21

The Scheduling Advisory Committee looking into a possible change to scheduling at Sanford High School and Sanford Regional Technical Center has spent months studying the current schedule and possible alternatives. After gathering mountains of data and surveying the students and staff twice, there is no consensus on a preferred schedule, but the Committee has narrowed the options down to the current schedule and one alternative.

At a presentation on November 3, 2022, Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson described the Committee’s process, the history of the SHS schedule, what other area high school schedules look like, and presented the two alternatives with the pros and cons of each.

The current schedule includes four blocks per semester plus enrichment blocks twice a week. With this schedule, students have three different schedules each week – one for Monday and Friday, one for Tuesday and Thursday which are the enrichment days, and one for Wednesday which is early release day. Lunchtimes vary as well as class time. Classes are 70 minutes long on Monday and Friday and 60 minutes long on the other days. The enrichment blocks, which were previously known as “skinny blocks,” are 50 minutes long. Spartan Time, which is a period set aside each day for students to meet with teachers for extra help or to catch up on work when they were absent, and for school-wide events, is 45 minutes a day except on Wednesday, when it’s 35 minutes.

The pros for the four-block-plus-enrichment schedule center around the enrichment classes. These offer engaging subject matter for kids who aren’t on a college track. They also allow students to experience different SRTC courses to see if it is something that they might want to continue with. Enrichments lower pressure for the student and allow staff to teach something they are passionate about, which helps with retention.

Negatives associated with the current schedule include limited opportunities for students to take music, arts, foreign language, AP and other classes. An SRTC student spoke at a recent School Committee meeting and complained that she was unable to get enough credits to graduate with the current schedule, and had to take classes elsewhere to make up the difference. Some students have difficulty staying engaged for a full 70-minute class. Complaints surrounding the enrichment classes included that they lack academic rigor, don’t have a consistent workload or expectations, and that a large number of students is opting out of them due to early release (these are juniors and seniors who work or have already met their credit requirements for graduation).

The alternative five-blocks per semester schedule would have a consistent schedule Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On those days, blocks one through four would each be 60 minutes, with block five being 75 minutes. There would be no block five on Wednesday. Spartan Time would be reduced to 30 minutes, except on Wednesday when it would be 45 minutes.

The positives for a switch to a five-block schedule include greater consistency as well as increased academic opportunities and flexibility for students in music and art programming, SRTC and JobCorps, AP and advanced math, and Special Education. Students needing early release or late arrival could be better accommodated, as well as students needing study hall time. Negatives associated with the switch include an increased workload on teachers, less instructional time, possible academic burnout and an increase in failure rates.

The PowerPoint presentation with this information and more is available on the School Department’s website at https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Qe4doFmhiWSJx4XZwFZ4hhm1VWnpzcwB1BCotoKUyjE/edit#slide=id.g14aaebc61cf_0_39. You can also view it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GaftzfoCPw.

Mr. Nelson will give a condensed version of his presentation at the next School Committee meeting on November 14, with opportunity for public comment. The public may participate live or via Zoom. The meeting will begin at 6:00 pm in Council Chambers in City Hall. Comments may also be submitted by email before 4:00 pm that day to schoolinfo@sanford.org. No decision will be made at that meeting.

The School Committee will meet again on November 21, and there will be opportunity for public input then as well. Mr. Nelson said the plan is for the Committee to make a decision at that meeting, which could include keeping the current schedule, moving to the five-block schedule beginning with the 2023-24 school year, or choosing a different model altogether. “We know it’s an emotional issue,” he said, but added that he hoped people could remain civil and remember that the School Department is working toward the betterment of all students.

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