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Madison High School Shifts Towards Block Schedule

Liz Keill

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 • 7:08am

MADISON, NJ – Traditional classroom structure may be up-ended if the Board of Education approves a shift to block scheduling.

High School Principal Greg Robertson presented the proposal at the board’s Feb. 28 regular meeting.
 
The flexible plan would provide longer instructional periods, fewer classes per day, a common lunch period and allow greater focus on academics.
 
“Schools that use this schedule absolutely love it,” Robertson said. “We had a fabulous committee and visited four different sites.” Those included Chatham, Berkeley Heights, Mendham and Ridgewood.  “These places were hot. There’s an excitement in the air,” he said of the visits.
 
He explained that the revised schedule would be closer to the college experience and would be more stimulating for both teachers and students. Classes would rotate during different periods of the day and week. There would be six class periods a day, 59 minutes in length and a 45 minute common lunch period. Each class would meet three times in a four-day cycle.
 
He also praised the advantages of a common lunch, when everyone would eat between 10:52 and 11:37 a.m. He added, however, that guidance counselors and nurses would not be on that lunch schedule. But the common period means students could eat with their friends, have access to faculty and staff or meet with clubs and other activities. The auxiliary gym would be utilized, he said, with a tarp in place to protect the floor. Kiosks would be provided to augment the cafeteria service as well as other areas to sit and eat.
 
“This is a change that inspires everyone,” Robertson added. “People who’ve tried it have nothing but positive things to say. It provides variation. It’s not the same mundane schedule.”  He acknowledged that students would probably adapt more easily than teachers and that they would experience less stress. “This is an opportunity for our teachers to rethink how they’re teaching,” Robertson said.
 
Questions came up from the public about study halls, sports, physical education and tutorials, among other issues.
 
One parent commended the committee, saying there are so many plans to choose from that committee she’s seen in other schools have “collapsed under their own weight.” She applauded the energy and critical thinking that went into the process.
 
The board unanimously supported the plan.
 
School Business Administrator Gary Lane provided a budget update. State aid has increased, he said, so the district is able to maintain academic and co-curricular activities. The sale of the Green Village Road School will provide a one-time revenue increase, which will be used for capital improvements. The operating budget is up 2.5 percent, he said, to $36,228. The tax levy would have a 2 percent increase. The budget must be submitted to the county for approval before coming back to the district for a vote.  
 
Resident Steve Wells told the board how disappointed he was in the Madison Borough Council meeting Monday night and the removal of Ray Codey as borough administrator.

“I’m beyond shocked,” he said. “It sends a lot of messages of the wrong type, of the kind of town we are.” He said he had “tremendous praise for Codey’s performance.
 
Somebody’s got to stand up and say when political conduct crosses the line. He was blindsided overnight.”  Wells also made the point that relations between the borough and the school district have improved “and Codey was the glue that’s held this together.”
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