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Parents frustrated with Clayton Schools 'hybrid' schedule

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A new "hybrid" schedule that was implemented in Clayton County schools this year has led to students struggling in the core subject areas, such as English and mathematics, the parent of one student told the Clayton County Board of Education, on Monday.

Mt. Zion High School parent, Deshonna Taylor, said her son, who is a senior at the school, is falling behind in math because his class schedule requires him to attend a math class for 104 minutes every other day, instead of every day. She said it stands in stark contrast to her daughter, a freshman at the school, who has a mathematics class every day, and is doing well in the subject.

"She is doing extremely well in math, but my son, who does not receive math everyday, is really struggling to keep up," Taylor said. "I am seeking outside help for him, so he can do well in his class ... Children need to be in their core classes every day."

Taylor was one of four parents, all of whom have children at Mt. Zion High School, who complained about the hybrid schedule.

The schedule was implemented this year to accommodate students taking seven classes per semester, to meet graduation requirements, said School System Area II Superintendent Anthony Smith.

"The graduation requirements, for how many [course] credit hours a student has to earn, went up, from 22 credit hours, to 23 credit hours this year," Smith said. "That allowed a real small window of opportunity for students to make up credits they missed, if they failed a class. This [the hybrid schedule] created opportunities for students to make up any classes they needed to graduate."

Smith said the change means students now have a chance to re-take up to seven credit hours, as opposed to three credit hours under the old schedule format.

Under the "hybrid" format, students are on a rotating schedule, according to copies of schedules posted on the web sites for some of the county's high schools. There is an "A" day schedule, and a "B" day schedule. Smith said it blends the block schedule format, with the traditional class schedule format, which is why it is called a hybrid schedule.

On "A" days, a student will attend his, or her, first-, third-, fourth-, sixth-, and seventh-period classes. On "B" days, he, or she, will attend second, third, fifth, sixth, and seventh periods. The schedules look similar in that students go to their third-, sixth- and seventh-period classes everyday, but they rotate their first- and second-, and fourth- and fifth-period classes.

The first/second period block lasts 104 minutes, while the fourth/fifth period block lasts approximately 120 minutes, according to the schedules that high schools have posted on their web sites. Smith said the size of the fourth/fifth period block fluctuates from school to school, based on how long each school's lunch period lasts.

The schedules also show that the third-, sixth- and seventh-period classes each last 52 minutes. In short, students have four classes they do not attend every day, and three they do attend every day.

But parents who spoke out against it, on Monday, said it needs to be scrapped. All of them, who expressed concerns, said their children were not receiving enough math instruction under this format. They also said they were afraid it could make the school system look bad in the eyes of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), or put schools in jeopardy of not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

"My child cannot succeed this way," said Mt. Zion parent, Amanda Booker. "Disband this hybrid schedule. We do not want it."

Smith said, however, that the district did not go into the hybrid schedule format "haphazardly." He said there was planning and research done beforehand.

Smith also said the school system did build into the hybrid schedule, an opportunity for students to have math every day. Even if a student has a math class scheduled during one of the rotating class blocks, there is a math-support class that is offered as an elective, he said. The class acts as a place where students can review what they are learning in math, on a daily basis, he explained.

"Say you have students who are struggling in Math 1, 2 or 3," he said. "Those students can elect to take a math-support class, as an elective, every day to get the extra help they need."

The area II superintendent said the criticism expressed at the board meeting on Monday was a bit of a surprise, though. He said he had not been hearing "major" complaints about the format.