Schedules to change for all RCAS high school students
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Schedules to change for all RCAS high school students

After almost a decade of differing schedules, students at Rapid City Central and Stevens high schools will have the same schedules.

Currently, Central students are on a block schedule with rotating red and white schedule days. One week, the students have one set of classes three times. The next week, they only have those classes twice and have the other set of classes three times. Stevens students are on a traditional schedule. 

The difference allowed Central students to amass 32 credits during a four-year high school career, but Stevens students could only receive a maximum of 28. 

Beginning in fall 2020, all high school students will be on modified block schedules with rotating days of block schedules and a hybrid day on Wednesdays when students attend all eight classes in a day. This hybrid system ensures teachers have instructional time with students at least three times per week.

The change created concerns for many parents, but none more than those who have students in fine arts programs such as theater, band or choir. Some parents were concerned that 90 minutes was too long for students to practice in one setting. Others were concerned the students wouldn't receive the same quality of instruction they have grown accustomed to. 

Both high schools have a strong history of placing students in state competitions and winning scholarships at universities across the nation because of the quality of education they receive.

"No one cares more about our arts programs than the staff at the Rapid City Area Schools," said Andrew Belsaas, Central High School head band director. "The 10 of us who have dedicated our lives to teaching the bands, choirs and orchestras at Central and Stevens high school have built outstanding programs, fostering thousands of young musicians and committed thousands of hours to our schools."

Belsaas said those he met with when the schedule was first introduced felt like the new hybrid schedule was the best compromise between those who wanted daily contact with students and others who enjoyed the longer block sessions.

"With this hybrid schedule, we are reliably seeing our students for three rehearsals a week," Belsaas said. "While there are advantages to daily rehearsals, the longer periods prepare students for future schedules."

Belsaas said the changes won't affect the quality of instruction for RCAS students.

"Although this is a change from our current schedule and there is apprehension, I can guarantee that the 10 of us will not be lessening the quality of our teaching or the lowering the expectations of our ensembles," he said. "We care. We care about these students and these programs. This is what we've dedicated our lives to and we will continue to do so."

The new schedule will have the biggest effect on current eighth graders and younger students. The new hybrid block schedule is part of a Pathways Program designed to allow students to take part in more project-based learning.

RCAS administrators identified these benefits of the new schedule:

• Consistency and equity. Currently, all Central students are able to earn up to eight credits per year, while all Stevens students are only able to earn seven credits per year. The new hybrid, alternating block schedule will ensure that every student at the two comprehensive high schools has equal opportunity.

• Increased teacher collaboration and planning time.

• A hybrid block schedule will allow for work-based learning, project-based learning, and coordinating dual credit and work experiences with external partners.

• Optimal utilization of resources such as facilities, equipment, and staff.

• Additionally, this schedule accommodates the new RCAS Academies model, which will launch next year. The incoming ninth grade class will be the first group of students to experience the RCAS Academies.

Board members said they will be monitoring the changes to make sure student outcomes improve under the new schedule. 

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