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Schools reconsidering HS block scheduling
Liberty BoE 1
Liberty County Board of Education office is at the corner of Bradwell Street and Memorial Drive in Hinesville. - photo by File photo

Liberty County Schools will start reviewing the benefits and challenges of block scheduling versus traditional scheduling for the next school year.

Susan Avant, the Liberty County School System’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, informed Board of Education members at their work session Jan. 26, “There are some challenges that we’re facing so we wanted to do some discussion, some further investigation to see if some of the challenges that we face would be better addressed with one type of scheduling or the other.”

Avant said that stakeholder meetings with school counselors, teachers and school administrators from Bradwell Institute, Liberty County High School and the Liberty Career and College Academy are being conducted to evaluate which schedule is best for students. Areas of focus within the discussions will include: graduation requirements, student achievement, the Georgia Milestone Assessment System and special education.

Board Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Smith Carter said some parents are concerned that once their child begins a course, then needs a schedule change, that student will lose credit for that class. She said there seems to be some problem with flexibility.

Board member Marcus Scott IV said he thinks there is more flexibility with block scheduling than traditional, because new classes start in January and with traditional scheduling, classes are yearlong.

“I’ve been hearing this for about a year now and one of my thought processes is the career academy—the impact there,” Board member Carol Guyett said. “The other thing that concerns me is we stopped having summer school when we went to block scheduling.”

She feels that summer school would have to be reinstated along with the related expenses, such as operating and maintenance costs.

Board member Dr. Yvette Keel asked how a switch to traditional scheduling will impact the district’s promotion/retention rate.

Avant said that her department will look at all possible scenarios and different options for credit recovery.

School renovations

Last summer, Button Gwinnett Elementary School underwent some outdoor renovations with a new playground and repaired walkways. This year, Button Gwinnett will have major interior renovations.  Jason Rogers, the district’s chief operations officer, said one of the main concerns at Button Gwinnett was the cafeteria and media center. Rogers showed preliminary site plans for the renovations. The administration area will get a facelift and the media center will be enclosed will be enclosed and encircled by a hallway.

“The school was very adamant about keeping the pit/presentation area as well as the treehouse that they refer to as the Eagle’s Nest,” Rogers said.

The circulation desk will be relocated to under the “treehouse” an enclosed area above the media center’s central area which provides a good view of all the activities. He said that the school wants a lot of light coming into the building and want to avoid having a boxed-in feel.

A new, free-standing kitchen will be built, and the size of the cafeteria will increase. Fifty more students will be able to fit in the cafeteria, resulting in a shorter lunch period and two food lines. There will also be a teacher workroom with additional bathrooms and work space.

In an email, Rogers said tentative work for the kitchen addition will begin in May and the interior renovations will start the day after teachers are finished with post-planning. The last day of post-planning is in the beginning of June. Renovations are being funded through Education Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax for a preliminary, estimated cost between $3 million and $3.5 million.

Bus purchasing plan

Roger Reese, the district’s chief financial officer, presented information asking that the system continue to participate in the Georgia Department of Education’s bond bus purchase program to offset some costs in replacing old buses.

“We have 166 buses in our fleet and 116 are 10 years or older,” Reese said. “We’re receiving financing (from the state) based on buses that are 10 years or less. With the board’s support, we’ve been able to replace 12 buses over the last few years.”

For example, in 2015, four buses were purchased for $346,800. By participating in the state’s program, the district was given $308, 880, making the district’s actual cost $37,920, Reese said. The cost was covered by E-SPLOST funds. If the district participates in the replacement plan over a 12-year period, 76 buses will be replaced for an estimated cost of $7.1 million.

Guyett asked how much the bonds cost the district. Reese answered that it doesn’t cost the district anything because the district receives additional money from the state for the buses that are 10 years old or less.

In other business

• The board approved a total project budget of $87,049.07 for field access improvements at Liberty County High School, and at Midway Middle School a sidewalk to a greenhouse and a concrete pad and sidewalk to an outdoor classroom.

• Out-of-state travel to the National Policy Seminar in Arlington, Virginia, and to the Math Science Program Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, was approved.

• The board also approved state revisions to the student academic attendance policy.

• District enrollment is around 9,940 students, a decrease of from this past’s October’s enrollment number of about 10,011.

• Reports on purchasing, finances, E-SPLOST, Teaching and Learning, Horizons, and tribunal were submitted to board members. There were no presentations on these reports.

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