Pelham BOE OKs new PHS bell schedule

PELHAM – Next school year, returning Pelham High School students will have to adjust to a new way of doing things as the school’s start time and bell schedule have undergone a change.

A new PHS bell schedule was unanimously approved by the Pelham Board of Education at a meeting on Monday, Feb. 26. The schedule will take effect at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

The new schedule features an 8 a.m. start time for students, rather than the current 7:35 a.m. start time, and each school day will consist of seven class periods. Students will spend 52 minutes in each class, except for their first period class which will be 55 minutes.

The school is currently on block scheduling, which means that students attend first, third, fifth and seventh period classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and second, fourth, sixth and eighth period classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students attend all classes on Fridays.

Pelham City Schools Superintendent Scott Coefield said PHS principal Amanda Wilbanks and the school’s leadership team spent countless hours conducting research and putting together a schedule that best suits the needs of PHS. Coefield said the team had been working on the task since the summer of 2017.

The new schedule adds about 45 minutes more per week of instructional time in core subjects and includes common planning time for teachers from 7:15-8 a.m. every day.

This time will allow for easy collaboration between teachers, time for professional development and lesson planning. Coefield said a common planning time in the morning means that no teachers will have to leave the classroom during the day to participate in common planning.

The new schedule also aligns with the middle school bell schedule, which makes the transition from middle to high school easier for students.

Coefield also addressed some concerns about the new schedule. He said the bell schedule and changes made to the Course Selection Guide have nothing to do with a lack of resources.

“We must be financially responsible, but this has nothing to do with financial resources because it will not impact the number of teachers allocated to the schools,” he said. “The superintendent sets the number of teachers based on staffing models and conversations with administration. We employ ample number of teachers at PHS to provide for our students. According to state department reports detailing the number of locally funded teachers above the state allocation and on a per pupil basis, PHS employs significantly more staff than other high performing 6A schools with Shelby County.”

PHS teacher Connie Nolen addressed the board during the meeting to express concerns about losing what is known at the school as the “skinny” period, which is a 40-minute period set aside Monday through Thursday for intervention and remediation, for school clubs to meet and studying or tutoring. Nolen read comments from some of her students expressing how beneficial that time is for them. The new schedule eliminates the “skinny.”

But ultimately, Coefield said the benefits of the new schedule outweigh concerns about losing the “skinny.”

“We have a plan for all of that,” Coefield said. “We have a plan for remediation and we’re not cutting down on opportunities for clubs to meet.”

Wilbanks said intervention and remediation will be imbedded into the school day. She said remediation teachers will rotate throughout the school providing remediation instructional time for students inside of their classrooms instead of pulling them out. For students who need more intensive remediation, a remediation class will be included on their class schedule.

“Students will now be able to receive credit for remediation classes, whereas with the skinny they didn’t receive any credit for that,” Coefield said.

The new schedule comes with morning and afternoon activity schedules that carve out 40 minutes in the day for clubs to meet or for other special events to take place. Wilbanks said she will use the activity schedules on an as-needed basis.

Overall, Coefield said the process of developing a new bell schedule was a positive experience.

“The high school did a great job of coming together as a team and providing opportunities for teachers to share their ideas and opinions,” he said. “It has been a really positive process.”