OXFORD – A total of 725 more library books have been signed out of the Oxford Hills Middle School this year than last year.

That’s just one of the many pluses, administrators and teachers say, of the modified block schedule at the school.

“That’s huge,” Principal Hal Short told the SAD 17 Board of Directors at Monday night’s meeting.

Block scheduling replaced the traditional 45-minute, six-period day and daily study hall about four years ago. It has been modified a number of times since then. While not a perfect schedule yet, Short and Assistant Principal Troy Eastman reported to the board that significant positive changes have been seen this year because of it.

The block schedule divides days into green and gold, similar to the high school schedule, and is made up of four classes. Math class meets each day for 60 minutes and language arts meets 85 minutes daily.

“It’s one reason we get 300 minutes a week of math,” Short said.

Math teacher Michael Grace said the change from the 85-minute to the 60-minute block schedule increased the amount of math classroom time for each student from 425 minutes ever two weeks to 600 minutes every two weeks.

“We’re way ahead of schedule,” he said of the program goals.

Special Education teacher Derek Galway said he believes the schedule has better prepared students for class because they don’t have to do homework for four or five classes each night. Teachers have time to do more interdisciplinary teaching, and they can increase the time they give each student individually.

In general, Short said the schedule provides:

• fewer transitions for students, who previously used as much as 30 to 40 minutes a day just to pass from class to class;

• fewer subjects to focus on each day;

• more library access due to a rotating study hall and a larger block of time; and

• more access to teachers for individual instruction.

While there are some negatives, such as lack of time for in-school extra help, Short said they hope to continue to modify the schedule to provide the best plan for students and teachers.

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