TOWNSEND -- After a change in the high school bell schedule for the upcoming school year was voted in by the North Middlesex Regional School Committee at its May 26 meeting, the administration is scrambling to get the process set by the time the first bell rings in the fall.
Under the new system, students would have eight course periods that they would take for the entire year. There would be five 70-minute blocks per day, and the eight periods would be rotated on an eight-day basis.
With the existing schedule, there are four 87-minute blocks per day, and the year is divided into semesters, with course selections changing each semester.
Before the change can be implemented, there remain hurdles to overcome, including bargaining with the teachers union and revising Individualized Education Plans for special-education students.
In an emailed statement, Superintendent Joan Landers said the district is working to prepare for the change.
"The special-education director has been meeting with high school staff to work on student schedules," Landers wrote in the email.
She added that the School Committee is negotiating with the teachers union to come to a consensus on the impact to working conditions.
Landers said the new schedule would benefit students in three ways -- enabling them to develop the time management and organizational skills necessary to manage a college workload, addressing the lack of continuity in skills-based courses by providing instruction year-long and allowing students more flexibility to take a wide variety of courses.
But at least one resident thinks the School Committee unfairly rushed the decision.
Pepperell resident and former student representative to the committee, Douglas Babineau, said he thinks the vote was done unfairly, and is planning to file an Open Meeting Law complaint this week with the superintendent, Town Clerk and Attorney General's office.
Babineau claimed at the June 9 School Committee meeting, because the agenda listed a vote for the 2015-2016 school year, voting on the 2014-2015 school year may have violated the state's Open Meeting Law.
"I would like a reversal of that decision. I'm perfectly fine with them talking about fiscal year 2016, but fiscal year 2015 is a rush and it's not logical in my opinion. It doesn't give taxpayers time to think about it, it doesn't let the right information be collected," Babineau said in an interview.
He said he is worried that bargaining with the teachers' union could alter the group's contracts, affecting a budget that was already passed by the three member towns.
"They didn't give a chance for people to express their opinions on such a big change that affects so many people," Babineau said.
Meanwhile, sophomore Annabella Couto welcomes the change. She said it will allow her to take all of the courses she wants, which isn't possible under the existing schedule.
"Personally, I'm really looking forward to it because I can fit all the electives into it, and French will be all year long so I won't have huge gaps between classes," Couto said.
Because the current system breaks the school year into semesters, Couto said, there would sometimes be semester-long gaps between consecutive courses, making it difficult to transition from one to the other.
"Especially with languages you can forget quickly," she said.
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