All About the Children

Manatee, Bayshore high schools to join Palmetto with ‘skinny schedule’

Bayshore High School will switch to a straight seven schedule for the 2016-17 year.
Bayshore High School will switch to a straight seven schedule for the 2016-17 year.

Two more Manatee County high schools will make the switch to a “straight seven” schedule in hopes of better engaging students and producing better academic results.

In 2016-17, Manatee High School and Bayshore High School will join Palmetto High School with a “straight seven” schedule, where students attend 45-minute classes at the same time every day. Palmetto High made the switch last year.

With a new format for lunch and a switch to a “straight seven” schedule, Manatee High School principal Don Sauer is hoping he’ll be able to better engage his student body.

“We’ve got some serious issues we want to address when it comes to engaging our kids,” he said.

Bayshore High School principal David Underhill hopes his “straight seven” switch will help increase students’ academic performance.

“The shorter periods, we think, we can engage our students better and the consistency of every day seeing every student in every class we hope will make a change that is a positive for us,” Underhill said.

Lakewood Ranch and Braden River high schools run “block” schedules, where students take one 45-minute class each day and then attend three other 90-minute classes each day. A block schedule rotates on “even” and “odd” days.

In academia, schedules tend to run in cycles, with either the straight seven or the block method being a popular method for a decade or so and then switching back to the other, according to school officials. Straight schedules are nice because students see all seven of their teachers every day, and block schedules are handy for more in-depth daily instruction and for classes that involve experiments.

“A lot of the trend now is moving somewhat away from that block schedule and going toward that straight seven or a modified version of it. The circle’s come back,” said Jim Pauley, who served as the principal at Southeast High School for the 2015-16 year and is now the executive director of secondary schools at the district level.

Last year, Bayshore High School and Southeast High School introduced hybrid schedules, doing one “straight seven” day and then four block days the rest of the week.

Palmetto, Bayshore and Southeast all bumped their start times to 7:30 a.m. from 7:45 a.m. to handle the change. Manatee will also require students to report at 7:30 a.m. for the 2016-17 year. Lakewood Ranch and Braden River students still start at 7:45 a.m.

The one straight seven day and four block days at Bayshore ended up causing more inconsistency than consistency, Underhill said, and he hopes the straight seven every day will work better. At Bayshore, the school will host three different lunch sections during fifth period, with each lunch about 30 minutes long.

At Manatee, Sauer and other officials built in a long lunch period. Students will be able to eat in one half of the lunch period and Sauer is hoping the other half can be used for club meetings or academic help. He’s hoping to set up teachers — after they’ve had their required break — in each of the core subjects to be available in a dedicated space during lunch and students can visit them with questions.

Instead of meeting before or after school, clubs can also hold meetings during the extended lunch period. That helps students who have to hop on a bus directly after school or have other after-school commitments gets more involved, Sauer said.

“We’re trying to do many different things so we can engage the kids,” he said.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney