BREWER, Maine — The Brewer School Committee decided Monday to move to block scheduling at the high school starting in the fall.
That means that when students start the 2012-13 school year, they will have only four classes a day compared with the seven they now take.
Brewer is following in the footsteps of Hampden Academy, Hermon, Old Town and others in moving to an 80-minute block system that will allow for more-concentrated classes, Superintendent Daniel Lee told the school board before members voted on the issue.
School board member Michael Hutchins, a retired teacher who taught at Brewer High School for 25 years, was the lone panel member to vote against block scheduling.
Before the vote, he expressed concern about educating teachers how to teach an 80-minute class and said a couple of times that the board voted in December to move forward on a modified block system.
Lee address both concerns by listing several teacher training sessions, one scheduled for March 16, and said that the block system adopted was designed to be modified.
“We built four blocks with eight periods — two periods in each block,” Lee said.
The modified system, which allows for 40-minute classes in some subjects, will not be implemented this fall but it is part of the plan, Perry Bennett, director of guidance, said at the meeting.
“What we have to do is build from the ground up,” the guidance councilor said. “The issue is having enough courses. To do all of it by this fall it’s just functionally impossible.”
Lee added, “I think we can create some interesting offerings with those 40-minute electives” in the future.
A school improvement team made up of nine teachers and administrators at the high school came up with the block scheduling plan after working for the last year to address problems at the school.
Another major part of the school improvement plan is the creation of a four-teacher support system for freshmen to “really get them into the high school way of critical thinking,” high school Principal Becky Bubar said at the December school board meeting.
With less than 50 percent of graduating seniors heading off to college, Lee said, the school system can do better.
“One of the biggest benefits is it permits us to get a freshman team up and running,” Lee said.
Board member Janet McIntosh said she fully supports the school improvement team and was impressed with teacher support for the changes.
A survey of teachers was done at a recent presentation about the block system, and of the 54 teachers in attendance, 41 voted in favor of block scheduling, McIntosh said.
“That, to me, says the overwhelming majority of teachers support this,” she said.
During the meeting, the board also unanimously supported a resolution opposing a City Council move to change the city charter and require the school superintendent to be a Brewer resident.
School board member David Austin said the move would severely limit the pool of candidates, a thought that was supported by his fellow board members.
A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 13 in the council chambers and written comments also will be accepted until 4 p.m. that day.
Under the proposed change, “any Superintendent of Schools contract beginning July 1, 2013, and thereafter” would require the superintendent to “become a resident of the City of Brewer within one year after his or her employment begins,” the notice states.