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Fairfield Area High School
 goes to block schedule

James Rada Jr.

(9/1) As the Fairfield Area High School students started back to school on August 26, they may have thought the school day went quicker, though the class periods may have dragged.

The high school converted from the traditional eight-period day to a block schedule with four periods and a flexible period in the middle of the day.

"The class periods are 80 minutes long with a 40-minute flex period in the middle that provides remediation for the other classes," said Wayne Sherrard, Jr., the high school principal.

They district began looking into variations on the block schedule two years ago. Once they began to narrow the options down, district officials presented the ideas to the teachers and then to the community.

"This new schedule allow teachers more time to focus on instructional time," Sherrard said. "With eight periods, they were lucky if they were getting 30 minutes of quality instruction time."

Instead of having a class for an entire school year, each class will only last half a year. Algebra I is the exception. It will run all year.

"We noticed we needed more instruction in that area and decided to extend it," Sherrard said.

Changes in how the district handles graduation projects will change this year, too. Previously, graduation projects had been a three-year process. Now it will be two years. The project will be career based in the 11th grade and community service oriented in the senior year.

"We want them to be able to have fun while getting an education doing the project," Sherrard said. "We want them to be proficient and ready for the next phase of their life when they graduate."

Students throughout the district also met a few new teachers as they went to their new classes this year, though the overall staff numbers are less, according to District Superintendent William Chain. The reason is that more teachers retired or left the system than were hired. The middle school also has a new principal and assistant principal this year.

Chain said the district students have scored well on the Pennsylvania state tests and have met their annual yearly progress (AYP) benchmarks. Still, district officials continue to study the data from the tests to see where they can make improvements.

"It's hard for us to know what world they (the students) will enter 30 years from now," Chain said.

Enrollment in the Fairfield Area Schools have been relatively level moving between 1,250-1,300 students. The school district draws students from Carroll Valley Borough, Fairfield Borough, Hamiltonban Township and Liberty Township.

"Last year, we actually lost a few students," Chain said.

However, he believes that should the economy improve and many of the houses being planned get built, the system could see a growth surge.

According to www.education.com, the Fairfield Area School District spend about $8,300 per student each year with 60 percent for instruction, 35 percent on support services and 5 percent on other elementary and secondary expenditures. The student:teacher ratio is 17:1, which is higher than the state average of 15:1. The districts drop-out rate is around 2 percent, which is half the national average.