VILONIA — While some tough decisions may be upcoming for a few Vilonia High School students, school officials still see positives from the recently passed changes in scheduling.
During its meeting Monday night, the Vilonia School Board supported changes brought up by superintendent Frank Mitchell to the high school’s "4-by-4" block schedule, which had been in place since the 1994-95 school year. The changes involve class times, allowing for five blocks and move the times for band and athletics to be in the same block.
These changes will affect 10 to 12 students, according to Mitchell, who are currently participating in both band and athletics. But the changes don’t mean the format is being ditched all together.
"We are not doing away with the block schedule; we are enhancing it," assistant superintendent Gary Lambert said.
Andy Ashley, high school principal, told the board there are positives to the current schedule including longer class periods, fewer breaks between classes resulting in fewer disruptions, more preparation time for teachers and students are able to travel to activities without losing as much class time. However, he said, with the new schedule there is an opportunity for a "win-win" situation.
"I feel you have empowered me to do the best Vilonia High School," Ashley said to the board. "That is what we are trying to do."
A handful of parents were in the audience and they were allowed to take part in the discussion. Some spoke in favor of the changes and others were opposed. One parent said the decision to make the changes "seems to have been rushed." Also, one parent said "there are other options other than putting the band and athletics at the same time."
Many different scenarios, Ashley said, have been discussed and researched. He said also school officials have been working on the proposal since October.
Parent, D.J. Johnson, father of a 10th-grader, embraced the change saying he is excited about the academic standpoint.
"I’ve heard about band and football," Johnson said. "I’m excited about what it means for my son and his education."
Listing anticipated benefits, Ashley said the change will allow students to earn 9 rather than eight credits each year in grades 10 through 12.
"I don’t know any other school in the state that can offer students nine credits," Ashley said.
It will also benefit students, he said, transferring in or out during the year decreasing the probability of losing credits. It will make greater student participation in distance learning courses possible. It will make it possible to offer a consistent choir program. Currently, he said, students have to participate in choir outside the school day. It will allow student to be able to obtain physical education requirements during the school day. Currently, students have to take this also outside the school day.
The change will provide an opportunity to make up credits not passed in the ninth grade. It will enable the district to offer an organized jazz band, band instruction for those who cannot participate in fourth-block band.
It will make it possible, Ashley said, to schedule Career Center students allowing them to obtain additional credits. These students, Ashley said, currently lose two blocks to get one credit at the Career Center as a result of travel time. It will make it possible also, he said, to offer weight room time for athletes who now have to work out before school or at a time that may interfere with participation in other sports. Students, who participate in only one activity program, he said, will have 3 1/2 rather than three opportunities to earn credits each semester. And, those in more than one activity, he said, will also be able to take one additional class each semester. Students, he also said will have greater access to AP and weighted classes. Currently, he said, all of these classes have to be offered in only two blocks preventing a conflict with band (first block) and athletics (fourth block).
Ashley also said it will be better for teachers. Coaches and band directors, he said, will miss less class time with the activities scheduled during the fourth block. At the present time, he explained that some coaches and all band directors work in other school at the end of the school day and it is difficult to find replacements for them when they are required to leave due to activities.
Other business, conducted by the board:
• Approve the transfer of two students, one from Rose Bud and another from Mount Vernon.
• Approved the purchase of a concession trailer from Springhill Specialty Trailers for $30,250. It was said the trailer will be used at softball and baseball games and for selling school sanctioned products such as T-shirts, caps etc.
• Discussed the purchase of a school vehicle. Mitchell said there is an opportunity to purchase a 2007 Silverado, with 34,000 miles on the odometer, for $22,800. The board asked Mitchell for a comparison price on a new model before making a decision.
• Discussed make-up days due to snow. Mitchell said it is planned for five days to be added to the end of the year June 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7.