UNION COUNTY — A waiver granted to the Union County School District by the State Board of Education garnered attention throughout the Upstate during Monday evening’s meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees.
State regulations require high school students to receive six hours of instruction per day or the equivalent weekly per Regulation 43-234 (South Carolina Code Ann. Sections: 59-5-60). Regulations also state that a teacher must not teach more than 1,500 minutes per week (43-205).
In reviewing high school regulations for accreditation, the Union County School District found that although many Union County High School teachers were in compliance with the regulation, all of them were not.
“We operate on a seven-period day and to meet the hours of instruction required for students, our classes are 52 minutes in length,” said Director of Secondary Education Cindy Langley. “The majority of the staff — English, math, science, social studies and special education teachers — teach five of the seven periods and meet compliance; teachers who instruct six of the seven periods per day exceed the designated minutes by 60 minutes per week. For this reason, we requested a waiver from regulation 43-205, which was granted.”
Langley pointed out that the state department encourages innovation and flexibility, and the waiver process is the method the state made available for districts to request such flexibility from state regulations.
“We will continue to work on a district plan and with the state board to resolve the conflict in their regulations,” Langley said.
UCHS is not the only school in the state on a seven-period schedule, but Langley said each scheduling situation is different.
“Even though another school may be on a seven-period day, that school may not be offering as many course options as we are — so they may not have the same conflict reconciling the two regulations,” Langley said. “One size really doesn’t fit all, so waivers exist.”
During Monday’s school board meeting, board members requested the following information be presented at the next meeting in two weeks:
• “When (on what specific dates) did the district become aware of the lack of compliance?
• On what specific dates were waivers requested and on what dates were they granted?
• Please indicate the school year for which the waivers were applicable; if multiple waivers, why?
• A copy of the current schedule (2013-2014) for all teachers 9-12 grades indicating the number of students/class and the number of classes taught for each school day.
• A copy of the class schedule times/bell schedule.
• The instructional plan for 2014-2015 that addresses this concern.
• We are not the only district on a traditional schedule; what is being done in those districts?
• When we were on the traditional seven-period schedule in the past, were we in compliance in the past?”
Langley said the district has met with state department representatives who are going to assist the district in creating scheduling options to meet student needs.
“We are also meeting with a state board member who has many years experience with high school scheduling to gain additional insight,” Langley said. “Both the state department and state board recognize that our district goal is to provide students with the educational experiences necessary for them to become college and career ready.”
UCHS Schedule History
Union County High School switched from a seven-period-per-day schedule to a four-class block schedule in 1998, which was a popular trend among high schools at the time. The theory was that the block schedule would be more similar to a college schedule, making high school students’ transition to college easier.
The district then brought back the seven-period schedule — beginning in the 2011-2012 school year — in an attempt to reverse declining test scores and rising dropout rates. One primary reason the schedule was re-implemented was to eliminate year-long gaps between sequential courses such as Spanish I and Spanish II.
Before the seven-period schedule was re-implemented throughout the entire school, it was implemented the previous year in the 9th grade Freshman Academy. At the time, teachers and administrators indicated students were more actively involved in classroom activities and behavior had improved after switching back to the seven-period schedule.