SOUTHINGTON — The Board of Education approved a plan to completely overhaul the high school schedule for the next academic year as part of its “Visions of the Graduate” project.
The new course format will be a block schedule, breaking up the traditional school day, where students have eight 46-minute periods, and instead replacing them with 88-minute periods. Students will have eight classes, taking four courses each day and alternating classes between two days, and a set 30-minute lunch break. The intent behind the plan is to give students more in-depth learning experiences in class, as well as allow them to take more courses and electives with a more evenly distributed workload.
With 71% of graduating seniors immediately going into two or four-year colleges after school, according to internal data from the district, educators are looking for methods to better prep students for a college learning environment.
“When you’re thinking about what’s the point of elementary school, it’s getting kids ready for middle school. When you’re thinking about what’s the point of middle school, it’s getting kids ready for high school. Then when you think about what’s the point of high school, you’re getting kids ready for life,” said Michael Crocco, principal of Southington High School in his presentation before the board.
The format will also allow teachers to give more in-depth courses with more prep time, deepening the students’ understanding of their subjects and giving them more time to complete assignments.
Another idea administrators are seeking to implement are “career clusters,” which are blocks of curated courses that will be outlined in the program of studies so that students will be able to choose classes that specifically prepare them for career paths that interest them.
Healthcare, finance, arts, and more will all be individually outlined, along with a number of careers and courses that fall under each field. It gives students a chance to better prepare themselves with foundational skills they need for their careers and education beyond high school.
This is an effort to address what educators feel is a current program of studies that is only purely focused on students getting the required number of credits rather than being relevant to preparing them for college and career readiness.
“The point is, the experiences that we have drive and get us to where we are. And in high schools, and our Southington High School in general, we’ve got to open up and be able to provide students with as many different experiences that are in tune with what their interests are,” said Crocco. “In the real world, things don’t happen in 45-minute increments.”
In line with that mission, the schools will be aiming to make even more electives available for 9th and 10th-grade students, allowing them to explore more options earlier in their high school careers. The board approved several additional courses for the coming school year at the meeting, dealing with niche scientific topics and history.
The motion was met with unanimous approval from the board, who thought it was the best step forward for the schools in preparing students for their life beyond high school.
“There’s no question that it’s the best thing for the students,” said Terri Carmody, a member of the board, “Eighty-eight minutes, think of all that can go on in the classroom. All of these new curriculum things we’ve had introduced, it’s how it should have been many years ago.”
“The teachers, once they get adjusted to it with their lesson design, appreciate the opportunity to dive deeper into subjects and really get into authentic investigations, projects, and presentations the kids can do, the collaboration you can foster and the time to provide that,” Superintendent Steven Madancy said, speaking to his experience talking with teachers at schools that have already adopted the schedule.
Further details will be made available for parents as the summer school semester draws closer, when the changes will be implemented.