Weird science: Scheduling conflicts are forcing class reshuffling Lab conflicts lead some Balto. Co. schools to offer longer classes.


For years, Baltimore County high school students have been allowed to skip social studies, English and foreign language classes in the name of science.

Six-period science courses, which enabled students to participate in a double period lab each week, were often held at the expense of a non-science class -- a class that students were permitted to cut, providing they made up any missed work.

But years of difficulty with scheduling conflicts are causing a change in that policy, which doesn't sit well with some people.

Although the six-period science schedule seemed ideal for science teachers and students interested in pursuing the subject in college, "it really caused problems for everyone," said Ray E. Gross 2nd, principal at Hereford High School.

"I was typically running about 85 students a year that would have to miss a class because of conflicts," he said. If a student had difficulty with that class, it was often attributed to the frequently missed period, he said.

So Anthony Marchione, deputy superintendent for Baltimore County public schools, has issued a policy that allows students enrolling for the 1991-92 school year to choose between a five- and six-period science class.

For some students, however, the final choice will not be theirs.

Principals at some smaller high schools say that scheduling problems mean only five-period science classes will be offered at their schools next year. Students who requested the six-period class, they say, are in the minority, and offering both options isn't feasible.

Woodlawn High Principal Louis Sergi has found it will be all but impossible for him to offer a six-period science class to students next year. Too many of his students would miss a day of another class.

That doesn't sit well with William Johnson, who referred to his son, a sophomore at Woodlawn, as "a science nut." Part of the reason the family settled in Baltimore County, Johnson said, was because of the rigorous science program.

"I don't want to pay taxes and have [the curriculum] downgraded as policy," he said.

Giving only some students the advantage of a six-period science class, he added, is unfair.

Part of the scheduling problem is the result of a 1984 move to a more rigorous program for county high school students, which eliminated the availability of study periods from many schools.

"I expect a few people will be displeased, but I think the majority of people understand that the problems we had were such that this is the best solution," said Hereford's Gross, who will also offer only five-period science next year.

Principals and school officials emphasize that students who don't have an opportunity to take a sixth period of science will have a single lab period, rather than a double lab. Changes will be made throughout the science curriculum to ensure the students in five-period classes are not at a disadvantage, they said.

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