School Board approves switch before trial week this month as staff members visit area schools
With a slight apprehension of the unknown, the Cedar Grove-Belgium School Board last week unanimously agreed to implement the block schedule at the high school next year.
The board approved the new schedule at a special meeting April 27, after debating whether or not to wait to act until after a block schedule trial run May 9-12.
Approving the block after the trial would make it look like the board was waiting to see if that week went well, said Laura Schieffer.
That, board president Chad Hoopman said, could create a “false negativity.
“It’s obviously not going to be a well-oiled machine in those first four days,” he said.
Dan Bruhn said the board’s support and approval is key to getting the staff on board with the schedule switch.
“As long as it’s out there that this might not happen, there’s no commitment,” he said.
The trial, he said, will be telling.
“I think there’s value in what the teachers learn about themselves,” Bruhn said. “You’re going to stumble early.”
High school principal Josh Ketterhagen, the driving force behind switching to the block schedule, said he knows there will be growing pains among the staff.
“I’m asking them to be uncomfortable. I’m asking them to challenge themselves,” he said.
But Ketterhagen said the trial won’t alter staff members’ love or dislike of the block.
“I don’t think it’s going to change opinions one way or the other,” Ketterhagen said.
Hoopman asked if the few months from May 12 until Sept. 1 is enough time to prepare.
Ketterhagen said holding off until going to a block schedule in 2017-18 wouldn’t allow for much better preparation. He said the staff would likely be at the same readiness level at this time next year.
“If we wait for the perfect time, I don’t know that we get there,” he said. “I don’t know if waiting a whole other year is the answer.”
Several teachers have visited other districts in the area using the block schedule, and more of those excursions are scheduled. Some of the other area schools using the block include Oostburg, Ozaukee, Random Lake, Howards Grove, Mishicot, Kettle Moraine and Reedsville.
Cedar Grove-Belgium will use an alternating A/B block schedule, meaning four 85-minute classes will be held on A days and a different four on B days. Study halls will be eliminated.
Schieffer asked how the district would measure the success of the block schedule.
Improving student achievement is the top reason Ketterhagen supports the switch in schedule. Others include developing better relationships with and reaching more students, the need for common time, decreasing academic time wasted and creating a less-stressful environment.
Superintendent Jeanne Courneene said metrics will include academics like classroom assessments, test scores, growth, behavior referrals and even attendance.
“What are you doing to make kids want to come here?” she said. “There is so much capacity (among staff) that hasn’t been tapped.”