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Block scheduling soon will be history

Updated 9:39 pm, Tuesday, November 20, 2012
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Stiff parental opposition couldn't dissuade the Region 12 Board of Education from making a move most members feel is in the best interest of the students.

In a 10-2 vote Monday, the board approved the change from block to flexible class scheduling, starting in the 2013-14 school year at Shepaug Valley High School.

Board members Kelly Lott and Valerie Andersen cast the nay votes, both calling for a more thorough study of the change by the board and administration.

"I'm in favor of some of the (flexible scheduling) advantages," Lott said. "But I still have a lot of questions."

"I'm not convinced yet," Andersen said. "I think we're moving too fast -- maybe in the right direction, but too fast."

The change will put the high school on the same class schedule as grades 6 to 8 at the middle school, which is housed in the same South Street building.

The decision will facilitate a sharing of teacher resources and potentially create a smoother sixth- through 12th-grade learning transition -- a transition the state is now mandating.

Patricia Cosentino, in her first year as superintendent of schools, believes the change will facilitate corrections in a system that is "broken in so many ways."

"I'm not anti-block, but the block scheduling does not work for all students," she said.

She said the schedule change will allow:

State-mandated scientific research based intervention for faltering students.

A period in the day when teachers could gather and collaborate.

Continuous instruction in math, science and languages.

Special education students to have more class periods with their non-challenged peers, as demanded by the state.

Add more time to middle-school class periods.

"We have all been looking into this very carefully," said board member Alan Brown. "I realize the stress this has been causing many (parents) ... but we are not doing this capriciously."

Shepaug Valley High School was an area leader in adopting block scheduling.

Many Region 12 parents give block scheduling's longer and fewer class periods credit for their children's academic success.

"You have a Faberge egg here and you want to make omelettes," argued Sherman parent Kate McConaghy.

"With block scheduling you can channel your child into whatever avenue they want to go down from their freshman year," said Bridgewater parent Sara Taylor.

Many Shepaug students are uncertain about the change. A petition opposing it signed by 167 high school students was presented to the board by Shepaug junior Dana Walker.

"Education goes far beyond presenting curriculum," Walker said. "The connection with your teacher is very important. Teachers now have the opportunity to approach every student individually."

Board member Greg Cava said he compared Region 12 CAPT and CMT scores with those of other school districts in the same demographic grouping and found the comparison "dismal."

In math, science and writing, Shepaug students fell significantly below students in Weston, Wilton and Ridgefield, he said.

"We're not doing nearly as well as people think we are here," Cava argued. "We need to be shaken out of this stupor. This school was designated a Blue Ribbon School before block scheduling came in."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322