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Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 18:21

Would join several area schools with same format, but more details and School Board approval required before the switch

Though there’s still a fear of change and plans are in a fluid state, Cedar Grove-Belgium High School may join similarly sized districts in the area and implement a block scheduling system next year.

Principal Josh Ketterhagen presented his research and plans to the School Board last week. He and the board briefly discussed holding a handful of town hall meetings to help the public understand the new schedule.

“I do have a passion for it because I think it’s what’s right,” Ketterhagen said.

His research began in January 2015, starting with evaluating the high school’s current schedule.

Improving student achievement was top on the list of why the new schedule is being considered.

In the first semester of this year, 80 F’s were given to 37 students, 10% of the entire population. That’s a concern to administration and the board.

If population projections hold, the school may have as many as 370 students next year, the most in recent memory. If academic performance holds, the graduation rate may go down in the next few years.

“We’re a good district and high school. We could be better,” Ketterhagen said.

Other reasons for switching to a block schedule include developing better relationships with and reaching more students, the need for common time, decreasing academic time wasted and creating a less-stressful environment.

The four-minute passing time between classes, Ketterhagen said, “seems like a rat race.”

He said he is regularly giving passes to students coming out of the foods lab who will be late to their next class.

A block schedule has four periods per day instead of seven. Ketterhagen said the longer classes allow for more time to dive deeper into content, allow teachers to get to know students better, and allow students to learn from each other better and utilize more work time.

Classes would be 85 minutes long, making for a different way of teaching.

While Ketterhagen said the majority of staff members have told him they support the shift, it would be a big change.

“There still is that fear, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be ready,’” he said.

Similarly sized schools in the area running block schedules include Oostburg, Ozaukee, Random Lake, Howards Grove, Mishicot and Reedsville. Ketterhagen said from his discussions with teachers, students and principals at those schools, all support the block schedule.

Two types of block schedules are being considered. The alternating block has four classes on Day A and four different classes on Day B. The 4x4 block has the same four classes for an entire semester and four different ones the following semester.

Ketterhagen said he prefers the alternating schedule to allow students to have the same classes all year, meaning band and choir would run all year, as well as Advanced Placement (college level) classes.

The block schedule would include two major shifts. Study halls would be eliminated and resource time would be added.

During resource time, students could work with their teachers on schoolwork, prepare for AP tests or develop their academic and career plans to be implemented next year. Teachers could require students meet with them for interventions, and behavioral reinforcements could be done. An honors study hall like ones that meet in the commons could be another possibility.

Ketterhagen said all the schools he researched that had block schedules also had resource time.

Adding resource time to the current schedule would take classes down to 41 minutes each.

“It’s not enough time,” Ketterhagen said.

The block schedule would allow teachers more prep time, and Ketterhagen said his research shows students come to class more often.

Given that classes run longer, “They don’t want to miss,” he said.

Class sizes would stay the same aside from a slight bump in elective classes due to the elimination of study halls, Ketterhagen said.

The first year of the block schedule would not be perfect, he said.

“There are some kinks to work out, but really, this makes sense,” he said. “The biggest reason not to switch is fear.”

Board member Kurt Kraus expressed full support of the schedule shift.

“You put a lot of talent and time and effort into this,” he said. “I’m not afraid.”

Board member Nancy Niebauer said she “isn’t 100 percent sold” on the block schedule yet, given younger students’ feedback to a version of it.

“The majority of kids I talked to hated the middle school block,” she said.

Board member Lori Gruell said it’s a “total paradigm shift,” and suggested looking at how the school evaluates teachers.

Ketterhagen said he wants to spend more time in classrooms observing, and the block scheduling allows for teachers to observe each other as well.

“My goal is to help teachers become better teachers,” he said.

Supt. Jean Courneene said the change could vault the district to new heights.

“We haven’t had this model at the high school,” she said. “We haven’t pushed the outstanding talent in this building, and I think it’s time.”

Ketterhagen said a sample block schedule would have to be finalized before he would recommend the format to the board. 

 
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