Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

At Pascack Schools, Flexibility Par for Course

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

At Pascack Schools, Flexibility Par for Course

Article excerpt

Administrators at Pascack Valley Regional High School District said they are "pleased" with how the first year of a new scheduling system implemented last year worked out but plan to tweak portions of it this year after gleaning information from students, faculty and staff.

Last year, the district, which includes Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills high schools, introduced a system that allowed for more flexibility among students each week. It included an 88-minute Pascack Period in which students could study, work out or sign up for non-traditional classes ranging from "how to properly smoke meat" to "how to build a shelter," taught by teachers and even students.

This year, much of the system will stay the same, Superintendent Erik Gundersen said, but there will be a focus on changing the Freshmen Seminar portion of it.

"I actually thought there would be more changes than we are making," Gundersen said. "We issued surveys to students and staff members to get their feedback in regards to the Pascack Schedule, and everyone has suggestions here and there, but overwhelmingly, everyone was very pleased with the schedule, including the Pascack Period."

Dr. Barry Bachenheimer, the regional director of curriculum in the district, said he was encouraged with the growth of the Pascack Period as the school year progressed last year -- particularly with students pitching their own ideas for courses to teach their peers.

"Overall, we were pleased with the results last year, but with anything there is room to reflect and refine," Bachenheimer said. "As the year went on, many students spearheaded their own learning."

Changes to the mandatory Freshmen Seminar will focus on how to better prepare incoming first-year students for the transition to a high school environment, Gundersen said.

Last year, the curriculum for the seminar ranged from study skills to digital citizen concepts, but this year the seminar will teach students how to emotionally prepare for the next four years of their lives in high school.

Bacheheimer said the district spoke to seniors about what they would have liked to learn when they entered high school and got suggestions including helping students make good decisions, finding out where they can go for help, understanding the importance of social media and communicating well with teachers. …

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