Starting next school year, students at Bowsher High School will take classes on a block schedule designed to give them more options.
After a vote last week by teachers at the South Toledo high school, Bowsher becomes the first of Toledo Public Schools' seven high schools to convert from the traditional calendar.
The plan calls for four periods of either 85 or 90 minutes each, depending on the time of day.
Principal Valerie Napieralski said she and the school's staff believe students will be able to concentrate better on four subjects a day and take more of the courses they want and need in order to graduate.
Toledo Public Schools requires 21 credits for graduation. The current system allows for up to 24 credits over four years, unless students take early-bird and summer classes - not enough of a cushion for students who fail classes or for those who wish to take electives.
The new system will allow students to accumulate as many as 32 credits over four years.
It also will mean fewer interruptions and fewer opportunities for hallway misbehavior.
“There are a lot of kids involved in many things,” Mrs. Napieralski said. “A lot of them work very hard on their school work. If they can concentrate on four subjects a day, we'll get better performance.” She said “at-risk” students also would perform better with four subjects a day instead of seven.
Under the plan, the school will have an “A/B block” in which students will have alternating daily schedules.
The vote, held May 8, was 83 percent of the full-time teachers in favor, Mrs. Napieralski said. The 10 administrators in the building were not allowed to vote.
A few other area high schools have block schedules, including Rossford, Whitmer, Springfield, and Notre Dame Academy.
Patricia Thomas, a Spanish teacher at Bowsher and the chairman of the building's Toledo Federation of Teachers committee, said teachers will have to adapt their lesson plans for the longer periods.
“We're all going to make a real effort to make it go,” Mrs. Thomas said. “Certainly teachers will have to come up with some innovative teaching methods to hold the attention of students.”
Under recent agreements with unions representing teachers and administrators, Toledo's other high schools will expand next year from a six-period to seven-period day. The periods will be shortened from 54 minutes to 47 minutes, while the overall day will grow by 15 minutes.
Advocates of the block schedule say that even though it translates to less instructional time per subject than the six-period day, less time is wasted taking attendance and changing classes.
But some teachers feel the block schedule reduces the time students should devote to core academic subjects.
Bowsher teachers narrowly fell short of the 80 percent needed to approve a block schedule in November, 1996.
Sheila Kendrick Austin, deputy superintendent of the school district, said other high schools in the system are interested in the block schedule, but none is ready to convert for the 2001-2002 school year.