CHCCS high school scheduling for 2025-2026 school year causes some parent and student objections

SCHOOLS

Compiled by Michelle Cassell
Managing Editor 

On Thursday, May 16, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education will hold a regular in-person meeting at Lincoln Center, 750 S. Merritt Mill Road, Chapel Hill. The public is welcome and invited to attend.

The agenda includes several items. The one item generating the most controversy concerns high school scheduling for the 2025 – 2026 school year. 

The Board is being asked to vote to approve a 4X4 Block schedule with flex.  This is a standard block schedule where students have the same 4 classes (80 minutes) each day for the entire semester and then switch to a new set of classes for the second semester. Additionally, there is a dedicated daily period of ‘Flex’ lasting 35 minutes. “Flex ” is time for students to work with teachers, time to study, participate in social-emotional learning (SEL), relearn, remediate, reassess, etc.  In summary, this schedule provides the following: 

  • Student Time in Each Class- 116 hours
  • Student Flex Time during the week – 175 minutes
  • Teacher Planning Time each week – 425 minutes
  • Student Classes/Year – 8
  • Minimum Student Course Load per Semester – 4
  • Maximum Student Course Load per Semester – 4
  • Teacher Course Load – 3/4 with Flex each semester

A petition has been launched on change.org.  The petition’s stated purpose is to “STRONGLY URGE YOU TO VOTE AGAINST THE PROPOSED SCHEDULE CHANGE.”

The petition goes on to list 3 major concerns regarding the proposed schedule change:

  • Inability to meet the needs of the diverse student population: “For example, students who play sports, pursue Arts and Music, take AP courses, and have ADHD and autism with special needs are all very concerned that the block schedule will have detrimental effects on their high school career in CHCCS.”
  • Negative impact on ALL Students’ academic performance and achievement: “The proposed schedule will not create an effective learning environment. Due to a drastic loss of total instructional time, students would perform significantly lower in all content areas than those who are in schools using our current traditional 7-period scheduling model, as revealed by scientific findings published in the Journal of Research in Education.”
  • Detrimental effect on students’ mental health and well-being: “Extensive long class periods can induce excessive stress, anxiety, attention problems, and classroom disorder among students, particularly during the sensitive and vulnerable stage of adolescence.”

TLR reached out to the petition’s originators. Lou Zhou responded as one of the group’s members. He wrote, “At the last BOE meeting on May 2nd, 50+ parents, teachers, and students spoke out (1-minute public comments allowed by BOE). All are against this change, with the exceptions of 2 who spoke without clear( y/n) viewpoints.”

Zhou went on to say, “We are writing to ask BOE to reconsider this proposed change, given that the majority of the community members are not in agreement and want to be involved in the process.”

TLR also reached out to Andy Jenks, Chief Communications Officer for the school board.  He responded, “Yes, we’re aware of the petition, but we’ve also received feedback in other forms, including public comment at our meeting back on May 2.”  Jenks went on to refer to the High School Schedule Assessment page, which contains the latest information, including the rationale for the shift to a block schedule.  It reads in part, “Overall, this review of high school schedules is guided by the goal of creating a more equitable, effective, and supportive educational environment for every member of the student community.”

TLR reviewed the 4X4 block schedule on Unlocking Time, “a national project that empowers K12 school leaders to adopt new time strategies that fuel student-centered learning.”

The site lists advantages and things to consider.  Advantages include:

  • Students have more opportunities to take non-core classes
  • More class time can help build strong student-teacher relationships
  • Teachers see fewer students per day
  • More time to vary instructional strategies, run labs and group work, and accommodate student needs
  • Some schools report decreases in discipline problems and dropout rates

Things to consider include:

  • Foreign language and math teachers may express concern about not seeing students every day.
  • Teachers will need support to implement instructional practices that take advantage of longer periods.
  • Increased teacher planning and collaboration time may require greater coordination and team communication to maximize the time.
  • To prepare for end-of-year state assessments, students may need to review course content covered in the first term.
  • Some students may complete graduation requirements early.

Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As managing editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news. 
This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press

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