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Greater Latrobe may lengthen junior high English, math classes

Jeff Himler
| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 11:01 p.m.
Greater Latrobe Senior High School.
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Greater Latrobe Senior High School.

Students at Greater Latrobe Junior High could see longer English and math classes and a consolidated midday study hall under a revised master schedule proposed for the 2018-19 academic year.

Principal Matthew Shivetts told the school board Tuesday the changes are meant to help ease students' transition from elementary school to senior high — where an even more pronounced scheduling change is being considered for next year.

Shivetts said Greater Latrobe's new junior high schedule was inspired by systems in place at other middle schools, such as Southmoreland and Wendover in the Hempfield Area School District.

As part of the planned changes, which the school board must approve, the daily schedule would still have eight instructional periods, but English and math classes would be lengthened from 42 minutes to 60 minutes each.

To accommodate that change, some other classes would be trimmed from 42 to 41 minutes and the time students have between classes would shrink from five minutes to three.

The three-minute time period shouldn't be a problem, Shivetts said, pointing out, “Our kids are in one hall together.” Seventh and eighth grades are at the junior high.

The instructional day would begin at 7:50 a.m., eight minutes later than it does now, and would end at 3:20 p.m.

The key change, Shivetts said, would be adopting a team approach that matches a group of about 100 students with the same set of four core-subject teachers at each grade level. The teachers would know the students well, he said.

Under the current schedule, each student typically has one study hall per day, Shivetts said. But, he noted, “that could be with a teacher the student has never had in class. The teacher they really need to see (for extra help) may be teaching a class at that time.”

With the team approach, Shivetts explained, four teachers assigned to each student group would collaborate in a daily planning meeting — determining which subject each student needs the most help with and which corresponding instructor the student should be matched with during the midday study hall.

“The kids would be coming to the study hall with kids they have in their classes and that they know,” he added.

Elementary guidance counselors would be key in grouping the incoming junior high students into teams, so struggling and gifted students would not be concentrated in any one team, Shivetts said.

At the senior high, Principal Jon Mains said, the traditional eight periods would be replaced with six longer, 55-minute periods — scheduled in a four-day rotation for separate morning and afternoon class blocks. In each rotation, a student would attend each class three out of the four days.

Each day's schedule would include a midday “Lunch and Learn” period, half of which would be devoted to mealtime. During the other half, students could get extra instructional help from their teachers or engage in other activities. The better a student's academic and behavioral performance at school, the more options the student could choose from during this flexible period.

Mains said one of the benefits of the proposed block schedule is an expected reduction in student stress, since they would be able to focus on fewer subjects in a given day.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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