Economic Development endorses CTE schedule

Published 3:46 pm Monday, November 19, 2018

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Isle of Wight County’s Economic Development Department has endorsed a proposal by Isle of Wight County Schools to redesign its high school schedules into what the division has termed an alternating four-by-four block format. This would allow students who desire to pursue career and technical education to take one week of traditional academic courses, followed by one week devoted to a single CTE program.

“The Isle of Wight County Economic Development Department enthusiastically supports and fully endorses the proposed Alternating Week Schedule for Isle of Wight County Schools’ CTE Programs because it would demonstrate meaningful investment both in our community’s youth and in the county’s long-term economic vitality,” said Christopher A. Morello, Isle of Wight County’s director of economic development. “This cutting-edge, real-world learning approach would provide benefits for students, their families, participating firms and the broader community.”

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton first announced the proposed schedule redesign in April 2017.

“There’s no schedule like this in the state of Virginia,” Thornton said at that time, explaining that the new schedule would effectively “redesign the whole experience” of high school for CTE students.

Since that time, division personnel have been conducting research and developing a plan to implement the idea. The School Board is scheduled to read a final version and vote on it in March 2019.

If approved, the division will hold information sessions for middle school students in March and April, with the schedule redesign debuting during the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year.

As the plan stands, eighth grade students interested in taking CTE courses would need to sign up for three different CTE programs to take during their first semester of ninth grade. They would choose from culinary arts, agriculture, welding, building trades, nursing, cosmetology and global logistics (warehousing.) They would spend a total of six weeks in each class, then pick a single CTE program, referred to as an “academy,” to focus on during their second semester and for the remainder of their time in high school, much in the way that a college student would declare a major.

Also beginning during the second semester, ninth graders will be paired with 11th graders for their week of CTE, with 10th graders paired with 12th graders. The academy system would also result in CTE students being in the same academic classes with other CTE students in the same grade, allowing teachers to potentially theme their lessons around CTE concepts.

Students who choose not to take any CTE classes would be unaffected by the schedule change.

Jeff Mordica, the division’s director of innovation and strategic planning, explained that redesigning the typical high school schedule for CTE students this way would result in their schedules more closely mirroring a typical professional workweek. It would also allow for enhanced partnerships with industries during students’ junior and senior years, such as co-ops, internships, job shadowing and industry tours.

The academic week would still be broken down into four 90-minute classes each day. During the CTE week, the first through third blocks would be combined into one continuous class, with the fourth block left free for students to take an online course through APEX such as physical education. Ninth graders will not have a block available during their academic week for PE, and so this will need to be completed during the CTE week. CTE teachers will be able to use the fourth block as a planning period.

“We have been successfully using the online PE course for students in summer school for approximately five years,” said Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of community and media relations. “The course does have a physical activity component that has students maintain an activity log.”

To gauge student interest in the proposed schedule redesign, each high school polled its students currently enrolled in CTE classes after showing them a presentation on the idea. The response was mostly positive, with 73.2 percent of students indicating they would continue to pursue a CTE program if the alternating week schedule were implemented, and 26.8 percent indicating they would not. Some said they liked the idea of having more time to do projects, while others questioned how well they would remember material with a week off.