Opinions on scheduling divided at FCPS meeting
By Jake Dziubla
Round Table online-editor-in-chief
As the seats quickly filled with parents and students from across Frederick County, the Frederick County Public Schools Board of Education building’s conference room left standing room only for late arrivals on the evening of Nov. 30 as board of education members listened to the countywide opinions on how high school classes should be scheduled.
Parents and guardians, as well as students, were invited to attend the meeting that was hosted by Superintendent Theresa Alban, Senior Executive Secretary Nuala McCarthy, and Associate Superintendent Ann Bonitatibus. The trio planned the meeting in order to gain insight from the opinions of attendees. “We’re here to listen,” said Alban.
All 10 high schools in the county were represented with a fair share of parents, and a few students, from each. Bonitatibus initiated the meeting by describing the purpose of the four block schedule and by emphasizing the fact that no decisions have been made on any changes to that schedule. “TJ and Catoctin cannot move forward without approval from central office,” said Bonitatibus.
Bonitatibus described the four-block schedule as a “blueprint” in which slight variations can be made from the original. Variations to the schedule at Walkersville, Catoctin, and Thomas Johnson were the subject of much debate as the opinions revolved mostly around how the scheduling benefits or creates problems for students.
Michele De La Rosa, a teacher of music at five different elementary schools, called block scheduling a “detriment” and that students can easily lose engagement in class since the classes are 90 minutes.
Other parents voiced similar opinions, saying that students can only pay attention for so long and that a lack of continuity with classes can be problematic for some students.
A father whose son graduated from Walkersville High School and has ADHD described some of the hardships that has son endured because of the lengthy classes. “Every class was a struggle for him,” said the father.
Linda Foreman, another parent with a child who has ADHD, placed emphasis on the fact that the scheduling works well for some, but not for others. Her son also loses focus during the 90-minute periods.
One mother, who has a freshman son at Frederick High School, vehemently disapproved of the 90-minute, four-block schedule. “It’s asking way too much of any human,” said the mother.
The opinions, however, were almost evenly split and many advocates of the four-block schedule also gave their input. Many, however, favored a “hybrid” four-block schedule.
A mother of a Middletown High School student favored bringing back the “split block” that was used to divide fourth period in order for some students to take classes year round, especially classes involved with the arts and music.
Another MHS parent, whose students previously were in the Montgomery County school system, says that her children “excel” under the four blocks.
A father who is a physicist, and who has children attending WHS, believes that the four-block schedule is “critical” for lab experiments and complicated lessons that require more time.
A survey will be taken by parents and examined by the board members in order to determine if changes should be made to the scheduling. According to Alban, if there is “overwhelming” disapproval and “disgruntlement” of the block schedule, a task force will be subsequently formed to study different options for schedule.
The board members hailed the opinions from all sides of the issue and were pleased with the turnout in numbers.
“It’s been an incredibly valuable two hours for us,” Alban said at the conclusion of the meeting.