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School board performs graduation transformation

POULSBO — The change from earning eight credits per year to six at North Kitsap High School might sound small, but in reality, it is massive.

Everyone at the school, from students to teachers to administrators to bus drivers, will be affected by the transition from eight, semester long, 85-minute blocks per year to six, 55-minute classes per year. The change came during a controversial decision by the North Kitsap School Board March 10.

“Obviously, going from an eight to a six will look different,” said NKHS Principal Roy Herrera. “But I think once everyone gets over the shock, it can be very positive.”

The second-year principal, who had rallied against going to a six-period day, is now faced with the responsibility of implementing it.

The most apparent change will be that each student will have a six-period course load all year — heavier per semester but lighter over the entire year. Each class will be 55 minutes rather than the current block’s 85-minute course.

Six additional classrooms will be needed under the new schedule, administrators said, as will at least $126,000 in new textbook requirements and five additional teachers.

Instructors will bear a similar burden as the students with regard to the change. An NKHS teacher will now have five classes per day — up from three under the block — and will have to adjust to teaching a course over a year rather than semester. Their daily planning time will also decrease from the block-length 85 minutes to 55 minutes.

Herrera said while the high school faculty will be challenged to make the adjustment, he has confidence in its ability to do so.

“Change is always difficult,” he said. “But one thing about teachers is they’re very resilient, and they’re going to make it work best for kids. Because of that, we’ll get a strong (educational) delivery.”

One of the areas Herrera said he thinks the six-period schedule will benefit is in the students’ Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) preparation. Under the block, the students would switch classes mid-year, ending exam practice in certain subjects before the test, which occurs in April. In the new year-long format, they’ll go all the way through the test.

“If they’re in English class, the student will be writing all the way up to and writing through the WASL exam,” Herrera said.

Four of the five school board members were adamant that the block schedule be significantly altered or dropped this year. The board’s impetus was to put an end to a 12-year waiver it had signed that let the high school utilize the 127.5 credit hours per class “four by four” block schedule. The state mandate in credit hours per class is set currently at 150.

The students who will be hit the hardest by the board’s decision are undoubtedly the juniors, who have only one year to meet the new set of graduation requirements. But the board alleviated some concerns at its March 24 meeting, stating it did not want to inhibit 11th graders from graduating if they couldn’t meet new requirements.

“The board made a public commitment to make sure juniors don’t have any issues that Roy (Herrera) can’t solve,” said NKSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Wally Lis. “They don’t want any students to be harmed.”

The board has also scheduled a second study session to continue discussion of the requirements, at 5 p.m. April 14.

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