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Will Perham High ditch the block?

Perham High School may be changing its course scheduling next year.

At a school board meeting last week, Principal Ehren Zimmerman said he and his staff have been exploring options to replace the school's current 'block' model, which consists of trimesters of five classes each.

Some parents and school leaders have expressed their dislike for this model, saying it lacks continuity, makes daily class times too lengthy, and makes it difficult for students to fit electives like art and music into their schedules. New models being considered would address these issues, as well as high class sizes.

One woman, who open-enrolls her children into the district, said she chose several years ago to take her kids to Perham because of the fine arts curriculum. Not long after that, the high school switched to the block format, and now, she said, "I can't believe what Perham has lost in the last few years."

She and a few other parents at the meeting said they were glad the school district is looking into the possibility of making a change.

New options under consideration include a seven-period two-semester schedule, and a 'modified block,' which would be a mix of both the block and period schedules. Both these options would shorten daily class times for at least most classes, and would leave more room in students' schedules for electives.

Though no final decisions have been made on the matter, school board members did appear receptive to the idea.

Zimmerman said more staff would be needed to support any new scheduling format without taking away course offerings and increasing class sizes.

But board members said they would be willing to make an investment if it benefited students, and generally agreed that the current model was not the best option out there.

Board member Jim Rieber feared students could fall behind in some core subjects, such as math, under the block model, as it's possible for students to go months without studying a subject. Board chair Cyndy Huber agreed, and said she preferred the continuity of the seven-period day.

After some discussion by the board, member Sue Huebsch said, "There seems to be a consensus that the seven-period day (or modified block) is what's best for students, so now the board has to figure out how to pay for what's needed to make it happen."

The board will discuss the scheduling options further at a special meeting on Feb. 27.