Parents react to proposed CTE schedule

Published 2:47 pm Monday, December 10, 2018

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On Monday, parents of students at Windsor High School and Georgie D. Tyler Middle School weighed in on Isle of Wight County Schools’ proposed career and technical education schedule redesign.

Currently, CTE courses are offered using what the division terms a double block model, this being two back-to-back 90-minute class blocks out of a four-block day. The school division has proposed changing this to what it terms 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 classes, followed by one week devoted to a single CTE program.

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.

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.

The proposed schedule is based on the format used by the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne, Massachusetts. If implemented, Isle of Wight County Schools would become the first public school division in Virginia to use such a schedule, according to Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton.

Students not taking any CTE classes would be unaffected by the change, and would remain on the traditional schedule. CTE courses such as marketing, manufacturing, engineering and cybersecurity are offered in a single-block format, and would remain so regardless of whether or not the alternating block schedule is implemented.

“This is not for every child,” said Jeff Mordica, the division’s director of innovation and strategic planning. “We’re trying to provide a reason for kids to want to come to school because they like what they’re doing. I have kids tell me, ‘I only come to school for this program.’”

Another point in favor of redesigning the division’s CTE schedule Mordica cited was to make student internships and longer-term projects more feasible. He said it is hard to schedule clinicals for nursing students using the double-block format.

When Mordica opened up his presentation for questions, one parent asked if her child could continue in band using the new schedule, to which Mordica replied that the division was looking into scheduling programs with high student interest such as band during the fourth block of the CTE week.

Julia Perkins, the Windsor District representative on the Isle of Wight County School Board, then asked what happens if a student’s interests change. Mordica replied that students should get a good idea of what CTE programs are like during their first semester of ninth grade when they choose their three introductory CTE courses. He added that even if students were to change CTE programs or go back to the traditional schedule, they would still be on track to graduate on-time.

Another parent asked if the new schedule would isolate CTE students from the rest of the student body. Mordica replied that students will still have their lunch periods together and that the new schedule would not impact after school activities the same way that students who previously attended the Pruden Center in Suffolk or any of the Governor’s Schools were impacted.

When asked if students in ninth grade would be able to switch to the alternating schedule in 10th grade were it adopted, Mordica answered, “Yes.”

At the conclusion of the Q&A session, Carrsville District School Board representative Jackie Carr clarified that the alternating week schedule was only a proposal at this time, and that it was “not a done deal.”

The School Board is scheduled to read a final version of the proposal and vote on it in March 2019. If approved, the new schedule will take effect at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.