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Citrus County high schools to nix block scheduling carly zervis / chronicle

School might not be any easier next year, but it will be a lot less complicated.

After years of discussion, the school district decided late last week to do away with block scheduling: Starting next year, all Citrus County high schools will have seven-period days.

The three schools — Crystal River, Lecanto, and Citrus — are now in the process of scheduling students using the new system.

Currently, the schools use a four-period day, often called a block schedule. Students have one set of four classes for the first semester of the year — from August through December, then a second set of four different classes for the second half of the year — from January through May.

Currently, the schools use a four-period day, often called a block schedule. Students have one set of four classes for the first semester of the year — from August through December, then a second set of four different classes for the second half of the year — from January through May.

One issue with the block schedule, according to the school district: standardized tests, including required Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) and optional Advanced Placement (AP) tests, take place in May.

That means that if a student takes an AP course, such as English Literature and Composition, during the first semester, they wouldn’t take the test for that course until the end of the year.

“We’ve got students taking ELA (English Language Arts) in the first semester, then they have to take that test at the end of the year,” said Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel. “Legislation says now that our tests will be given in May. When you talk about students taking a course, it’s nice for them to be able to take it up to the time they’re being tested.”

Another factor district staff considered: the seven-period schedule with year-long classes requires fewer instructional staff members.

“We are looking at a smaller number of teachers that we’ll have to put in the classroom next year,” Himmel said. “Teachers will not lose their jobs. But every year we have approximately 100 staff members retire, move on to other places — we know that there will be a place for all our teachers.”

The process of switching to the new schedule began with the High School Directions Committee, comprised of the principals of all three high schools, guidance counselors and district staff. The committee recommended the change to the superintendent, then discussed the idea with high school administrators and staff.

Citrus is actually behind the curve — most Florida school districts no longer use block schedules.

“We’re the only district in the state of Florida that’s left on a district-wide block schedule,” Himmel said. “There are some other high schools throughout the state — not many — that are still on it. Most of the decisions made at the state level are based on a traditional seven-period day.”

“Everything the Department of Education does they structure toward a traditional school year,” added Assistant Superintendent Mike Mullen. “They don’t really consider block-schedule schools, because very few schools are still doing it.

“Our goal at this point is to make sure that we meet the needs of the majority of our kids,” Mullen said.

That requires some adjustments to the Student Progression Plan, which contains graduation requirements specific to the district. Many requirements students must meet to earn a diploma are set at the state level, but the district can make additions.

One of those additions is going away: One full credit of geography will no longer be required, and the district will likely combine health and physical education courses into one yearlong class.

Students who want to attend the Academy of Environmental Science will still be able to do so; they’ll just spend a year at AES instead of a semester, and will be able to attend for either their 9th or 10th grade year, or both, according to a letter distributed by the school.

“It’s going to be different, but they’re not going to lose opportunities,” Mullen said. “The schools are going to do some creative things to make sure that we keep those opportunities open for kids. We feel like at this given time, it’s the best schedule for the majority of our students.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Carly Zervis at 352-564-2925 or carly.zervis@chronicleonline.com.

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