County begins phasing in High School Plus

Sept. 25, 2007, midnight | By Poorva Singal | 14 years, 8 months ago

New program to eventually replace Evening High School

Blair held its orientation for High School Plus on Sept. 11 in the auditorium, according to James Short, head of the program at Blair. High School Plus is an extended-hours program that lets students recover credits at their home schools for classes they may have failed. Though only offered to students in Grades 9 and 10 this year, it will replace Evening High School completely in two years.

Students in Grades 11 and 12 who have to recover credit will need to go to Blair, the only location for Evening High School in the county this year. The first class begins at 4:30 p.m., whereas High School Plus classes begin soon after the regular school day ends at most schools.

Photo: While accomplishing the same goal of allowing students to recover credit as Evening High School, High School Plus has a setup quite different from the traditional Evening High School. Note: The time and days apply only to Blair and may vary by school.  Photo courtesy of Xin Shan.

With High School Plus, students will not need to travel to Evening High School from all over the county. "The idea is the students will still have an opportunity to take courses that either they haven't passed or that they want for enrichment, but most of them will be at their home schools," MCPS Assistant Director of Communications Kate Harrison said in an interview with Silver Chips Online last year when plans for High School Plus were still being finalized.

Currently, students can only take courses to recover credit in High School Plus for classes they have not passed. There is a possibility that the program may be modified in future years to include options for earning original credit, according to Short. The problem is finding enough teachers, he said. Evening High School, however, does allow students to earn original credit.

Evening High School classes began Sept. 10 and will continue on Mondays and Thursdays. Two periods - one from 4:30 to 6:10 p.m. and the other from 6:20 to 8 p.m. - are offered each of those days. This way, students may earn up to 1 credit per semester. There is a fee of $45 per course with an additional $10 supply fee.

In contrast, High School Plus meets at earlier times in the day. "Most…classes are scheduled right after school or within 30 minutes of the school day ending," MCPS Alternative Education Specialist Marjorie Jenkins said. Some schools offer repeater sections instead, which meet during the regular school day so students may repeat courses they have previously failed. "This would be part of their normal schedule," Jenkins explained. Students can earn just 0.5 credits per semester, but the courses are free.

Each school is given the flexibility to decide what courses will be offered and the time and days of the classes, as long as High School Plus meets for at least 200 minutes each week, according to the MCPS web site. At Blair, High School Plus will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 4:10 p.m., according to Short.

High School Plus was piloted last year at Kennedy, Wheaton, Einstein and Rockville High Schools, according to Jenkins. There were two locations for Evening High School – Blair and Magruder. Each of the four pilot schools used different program models, allowing the county to determine which is best, according Hall.

Next school year, Evening High School will be held only for seniors Jenkins said. Other students wishing to earn credits for classes they have failed must attend High School Plus. By the 2009-2010 school year, Evening High School will no longer exist Jenkins explained. "All students who need to recover credit in courses they already have taken will be able to do that at their home schools."

Harrison explained that with High School Plus, students will be able to attend evening activities or jobs. And since students will be going to their home schools, they will be familiar with the teachers, she added.

MCPS Coordinator of Special Projects Julie Hall also believes that the new system is advantageous because students will not need to arrange for transportation to another school or come back to school in the evening. In addition, the program will allow for smaller class sizes.

As with regular day classes, a minimum of 15 students is required to start a class, according to Short. He is concerned that since each school will have its own program, there may not be enough students available to run a particular class. Last year, Evening High School classes ranged from 28-32 students, he said, and multiple sections of the class were offered if there were more than 32 students wanting to take a course.

Jenkins feels that not having enough students should not be a major issue. "We are seeing enough students to start classes," she said. To further resolve this problem, "there are situations in which schools are sharing their High School Plus Program," Jenkins explained. Blair, however, will not be forming such a cluster, Short said.

Short hopes that students take advantage of this opportunity, especially since the county is paying for the program. "The school system is looking for ways to provide the best situation or educations system for whatever the kids need," he said.

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