Students protest schedule change at Liberty High

Eldersburg school to shift to eight yearlong classes

System raises security level

February 13, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Concerned about a major class schedule change at their school, a half dozen Liberty High School students turned out at last night's school board meeting to protest a modification that some said will hinder learning and heap a year's worth of tests on them all at once.

The board also learned that school officials decided yesterday to increase the school system's alert level to "heightened awareness" after the federal government raised the national terrorist threat level to indicate a high risk of attacks.

Security procedures for a "code yellow" under the school system's crisis alert system call for schools to operate as normal, with administrators on a heightened alert for suspicious activity.

Parents may request that their children not attend field trips. School officials met to consider the change after calls from parents asking what the system was doing to prepare for a possible crisis.

Regarding the schedule change at Liberty High, Principal Florence K. Oliver sent a letter to parents Jan. 30 explaining that school administrators decided to switch from a hybrid schedule - a combination of 45-minute and 90-minute classes taught by semester - to a schedule that offers yearlong classes taught in 90-minute periods and that alternates different classes on different days of the week.

The change means that students will take four courses on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and a different four courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

But students complained last night that it also means they'll have eight course exams in the spring at the same time that freshmen and sophomores are taking state-mandated High School Assessments.

"That's 10 tests in a two-week period," said Jennifer Mason, a junior who is leading a committee of Liberty students who will spend the next four weeks studying schedule options and weighing the pros and cons of each. They plan to return to the board's March 12 meeting with their findings.

But Oliver said last night in an interview that students should not suffer at all because of the new schedule.

"It should calm things down," she said, adding that the schedule was chosen, in part, because it should improve learning and better prepare students taking Maryland's new high-stakes assessments as well as those taking Advanced Placement exams. The new format also will improve students' ability to take sequenced courses, such as math, foreign languages and music programs, and increase continuity throughout the year in those classes, Oliver said.

Eldersburg's Liberty High is the only high school in Carroll County that does not run its classes strictly in 90-minute periods. All six other high schools either teach four 90-minute classes five days a week for a semester at a time or have schedules like the one slated to begin at Liberty in August.

Oliver asked teachers, parents and administrators at Liberty to consider changing the school's format after realizing that because of scheduling conflicts, as many as 50 percent of Liberty students were in classes they did not choose and 32 percent were in study halls or other noncredit classes.

Brian Brubach, a senior, said students were told that the committee wanted their opinions. "Overwhelmingly, students chose the hybrid schedule," he said. "The very next day, it was announced that we'd be moving to the A-day-B-day schedule. ... I don't even think they considered our opinions."

Oliver said she made clear that although she was soliciting input from everyone, "this was not a voting situation."

She also said students are misinformed that they would fall behind by not being able to take two levels of a foreign language or other sequenced course within the same year, saying, for example, that school administrators are working on ways to offer French III and French IV in one academic year by dividing the curriculum between two semesters.

Oliver also disputed students' claims that a vast majority of teachers wanted to keep the hybrid schedule.

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