Opposition emerges

Published 1:06 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Opposition to the decision to change scheduling at Central High School in the next academic year emerged at the recent Lunenburg County School Board meeting.

Two speakers, supported by rounds of applause from a group of onlookers and backers, said at the Monday, May 9, meeting that the school board’s decision in March to change the structure of Central High School from four-block classes to seven-period scheduling does not have support and fails the students.

“Out of 16 teachers I’ve talked to, 14 disagree with the change but are scared to speak out,” said Melissa Parks.

Parks said the change was undertaken without parents being notified, and creates hardships for those whose children are enrolled in honors classes or want to start working on a college degree — and could keep her children from going to Central.

“I don’t believe the board should be able to make the change without notifying (the) parents,” she said.

Amanda Paynter, who is a teacher in the system, agreed, noting that she was there “for all those parents who don’t want to” stand up and speak.

Paynter said she, too, understood that many teachers did not support the change.

“I’m a little concerned as to why the teachers and parents were not listened to,” she said.

In March, the school board changed the structure of the Central High School day beginning with the next academic year from its current regular block scheduling consisting of four class periods each day for half of a year with four new classes for the last half of the year, to a seven-period school day.

At the time, board member Amy N. McClure said, “This is going to be beneficial to all your students.”

Board member Doug Aubel added that some classes, such as chemistry, will benefit from longer class period; and, in fact, the motion to make the scheduling change also allowed additional credit for the longer classes beginning with the 2016-17 academic year.

Superintendent Charles M. Berkley Jr. has told the board that block scheduling in the fall is no problem because students seldom miss time because of weather, but bad weather in winter can cause problems, costing days and disrupting classes.

He noted that a number of schools in the area have also gone back to the seven-period day.

Scheduling is a topic that has long been discussed by the board, and the vote followed the recommendation of a committee that was set up to look at the issue. When the committee was created in February Berkley required it represent a “vast coverage of the county” and that its makeup include administrators from Central and the middle school, parents, teachers, several school board members, guidance counselor, and students.

But board member Elizabeth R. Williams, who represents Love’s Mill – District 5, was the only one to oppose the change, noting she did not believe the committee adequately represented the interest of parents. Williams said she spoke to parents in her district and many of them did not want the change.

Williams said it could disrupt the system’s improvements on Standards of Learning tests as well as sports activities and homework. “It’s just going too fast,” she said after the vote. “It’s a big change so fast.”