Sevier Middle School switching to modified block schedule this fall

Rick Wagner • May 22, 2010 at 11:32 AM

KINGSPORT — Sevier Middle School is moving from an eight-period singleton schedule to a four-period modified block schedule starting this fall.

Sevier Principal Cookie Greer, who is finishing up her first year at Sevier after moving from Washington Elementary at the end of last year, explained that the current eight-period singleton school day will be replaced by four 90-minute blocks.

One will be 90 minutes of language arts, and the second 90 minutes of math.

A third block will be split into two related arts classes, with one including band, while the fourth block will be an A-B rotation with science and social studies every other day.

Greer said the change isn’t being done lightly or simply for the sake of change. Instead, she said the move to more of a high school schedule will give more time for core classes and intervention in those subjects during the school day.

In addition, she said it would provide more opportunities for differentiated learning for more advanced students and give more uninterrupted time for math and language arts.

Greer said Sevier will continue to have teacher teams to help sixth-graders transition from elementary to middle school during 2010-11.

As for Robinson Middle School, the other middle school in the Kingsport school system, Principal Jim Nash said that school will tweak its schedule this fall but will remain with eight distinct periods — a short homeroom period, five academic classes, and two related arts classes.

“We’ve not finalized any changes that we will be doing,” Nash said, explaining that he and his staff are looking at how to “carve out” time during the school day to have remedial instruction, enrichment and tutoring. The school already has an after-school program for students to make up work and get academic assistance.

“We’re trying to find some time during the day without losing instructional time,” Nash said.

In neighboring Sullivan County, school system spokeswoman Janie Barnes said Blountville, Colonial Heights and Holston middle schools have block or modified block schedules.

As for other potential changes in the two city middle schools, Greer said she was not yet ready to say that Sevier would continue the traditional eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., for the 2010-11 school year, while Nash said Robinson planned to have the trip again.

“Our plans are to have the trip next year,” Nash said. “Our plans are to continue to Washington, D.C.”

Greer cited the difficulty in raising funds for those who opt out of paying for the trip but still go, a task that fell to the Sevier PTA.

Under a Tennessee Board of Education policy that went into effect in August 2009, parents can opt out of school fees without regard to the ability to pay as long as the activity or program occurs during the school day, is overnight during the school year, or accounts for all or part of a grade.

Greer said an alternative trip that isn’t as expensive might be considered, although the D.C. trip fits in well with eighth-grade social studies curriculum.

After the policy, some trips have been canceled or curtailed locally and statewide.

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