Open spaces could hinder plan to lengthen classes Noise may disturb students nearby PASADENA

April 02, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

The biggest barriers to a pilot plan to cut the number of daily classes at Chesapeake High School from six to four just might be the walls that aren't there, teachers say.

Built in 1976, Chesapeake has open space classrooms -- no walls, no doors, just large rooms in which classes are separated by head-high partitions.

The plan would stretch classes from 45 minutes to 85 minutes. Teachers are expected to depend less on lectures and more on small discussion groups. With adolescents, that could get out of hand, fretted Jean White, who teaches economics.

"Right now, my kids play a stock market game in groups and they love it," she said. "But it's a good thing I have peers who are tolerant, because it can be a little noisy. Imagine 13 teachers in open space with kids in groups. I have reservations."

The program, created as an alternative to the Board of Education's plan to add a seventh class period each day, would allow schools to cram a two-semester course into one semester. Students would get two credits instead of one for each course they take in a semester.

Students and parents panicked when he explained the plan to them this week and told them it would take effect at Chesapeake in September, said principal Harry Calendar. Teachers, meanwhile, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the idea, despite their reservations.

Valerie Pringle, an English and dance teacher, conceded she is worried about the noise, but said she became a supporter of the plan after she and nine other Chesapeake teachers visited Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, which has a four-period day.

"I was negative initially, but . . . I changed my mind," she said. "I'm willing to try it."

Teachers at Thomas Johnson told her the longer classes forced them to be more creative.

"They also pointed out that I wouldn't be spreading myself between 130 sets of parents," Mrs. Pringle said.

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