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Next year's ninth-graders get a schedule of their own

Half of the school day for this fall's ninth-graders will be divided into three yearlong classes, district administrators told the school board, a move aimed at easing their transition into a six-period-per-day schedule in fall of 2010.

Older high school students will remain on the four-period block schedule during the 2009-2010 school year.

The three yearlong classes will be in English, social studies and physical science, and they'll be taught in "houses" of about 90 students each. House teachers will have common preparation time so they can talk to each other about course content and discuss how students are doing.

"We need to be there for them," said Efe Agbamu who is principal at Park High School. "Research shows we can reduce the number of dropouts by focusing on ninth-graders."

Ninth-graders are in a difficult transition phase, according to Randy Zipf who is assistant superintendent for secondary education.

"As they face the social, emotional, physical and intellectual challenges at this developmental stage, it understandable if some feel overwhelmed, uncertain and alone," he said.

There will be about 450 ninth-graders at each school next year, according to Zipf.

Ninth-graders need to be in yearlong classes, said Woodbury High School Principal Linda Plante. Course work needs to be rigorous to get students on a path to take advanced classes, she said.

If students stumble, there are programs in place to help them, Plante said. There are math interventions in each school, she said, where they can get individual help.

"Houses" are not available for 10th-graders because students begin to vary course selections and curriculums are already in place, Zipf said.

The presentation of the new program was presented as an information item to school board members at the Jan. 8 workshop meeting and does not need board approval, according to Superintendent Tom Nelson.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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