Students attend 3 schools in 1 day

September 11, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Innovation at North Carroll High School brought a new problem for students who want to take courses at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center.

And then another innovation solved it.

As a result, junior Lindsay Blucher attends three high schools a day, so she didn't have to choose between computer technology and algebra II. She needed both, and new ground was broken so she could have both.

"I've always been a person who tries new things," she said.

Miss Blucher and five other North Carroll students are setting a precedent this year by attending the technology center in the morning for a two-hour course, then going next door to Westminster High School for a 45-minute class, then taking a bus back to North Carroll High School for a 90-minute class.

They have lunch at 11 a.m. and then get to their Westminster classes by 11:19.

"I usually just have a Pop-Tart or a breakfast bar," Miss Blucher said.

North Carroll High School began a pilot program last year to have four 90-minute classes a day, instead of the traditional seven 45-minute classes the other four high schools in the county use.

Students and staff at North Carroll have favored the new schedule, but all agree it has a few bugs. The longer periods allow students to focus on fewer subjects in more depth, and provide a longer block of time for more hands-on learning.

A drawback is that the technology center's schedule was designed to mesh with those of the other four high schools. Students who finished at the tech center would return to North Carroll in the middle of a class. Officials were worried that the North Carroll students were missing opportunities to get classes they needed.

The students could take some courses at the technology center, such as ecology, welding, heating and air conditioning. But to give students a choice of academic subjects, Catherine Engel, principal of the technology center, came up with a plan to have North Carroll students fill the time after they finish at the tech center with a 45-minute class at Westminster High School.

Sherri-Le Bream, the principal there, approved it, as did Greg Eckles, principal at North Carroll High.

L Miss Blucher said she was surprised at the solution devised.

"I never heard of a kid going to one school, then to a different high school, then back to her home school," she said. "I wanted to do it, but I was sort of scared. Westminster High School is so big, and my school is so little."

She said the technology center's assistant principal, Walter Dyky, helped her and the other students every step of the way, showing them where their classes were at Westminster and introducing them to their teachers.

"Some kids were too scared to go to Westminster, so they cut themselves short," Miss Blucher said. Those students chose not to fill the time, or to take courses at the technology center. In some cases, those will be courses helpful to the students, she said, but she was able to fill an academic requirement with the algebra II course.

"I need that to go to college," said Miss Blucher, who wants to be a paralegal. She wanted the computer technology course at the technology center because she likes computers, and also because it will earn her credit from Carroll Community College.

For a student to fulfill credits through three schools in one day is "plowing new ground" in Carroll, said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education for county schools.

He said he and the principals were concerned that North Carroll students might be less likely to choose the technology center just because of the inconvenience. Officials already are trying to erase the center's image as being only for nonacademic students, by offering high technology courses such as computerized milling, drafting and electronics.

Mr. McDowell said it is not atypical for the principals to cooperate with each other.

"But I think it's atypical this kind of problem gets worked out," he said. He said he believes it shows the administrators are not stuck in an inflexible system of class units and seat time.

"There are a lot of different ways we try to get the job done," he said.

Of course, Miss Blucher has to race about the equivalent of three city blocks from the technology center to the third floor of Westminster High School, on the far end of the campus.

She suggested that the schools give students a way to try out taking selected classes at other schools, or let them tour Westminster High in the spring before deciding on such a schedule next fall.

"Some of the kids, I know, would do it if they felt more comfortable with it," she said.

"The kids in my [algebra] class are really nice. They ask me how the four-mod day is," Miss Blucher said. "Mod," or module, is the term students use to refer to a class period.

In general, she said, the four-period day challenges students to excel.

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