RACINE COUNTY — Racine Unified high schools are moving forward transforming into academies, and parents and students will have three opportunities to learn about the changes at meetings next week.
As part of the academy model, the district is also proposing transitioning to a block scheduling system.
“The purpose of the meetings is to share information with students and parents about the work that’s been done and what they could see at the start of next school year,” said Dan Thielen, chief of secondary school transformation for the district.
That work, which includes dozens of meetings with staff members and local businesses, will serve to transition Racine Unified’s high schools into college and career academies, according to Stacy Tapp, the district’s chief of communication and community engagement.
One meeting will be held at each of the district’s principal high schools. The first takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 14, at Park High, 1901 12th St. The second takes place at the same time Wednesday, Dec. 16, at Case High, 7345 Washington Ave. The final meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, at Horlick, 2119 Rapids Drive.
“We want to make sure we’re continually focusing on the needs of the community,” Thielen said. “We’ll be giving them a very good overview of what we’re doing.”
A significant issue that will be on the table at the meetings will be a proposed transition to block scheduling. Currently, Racine Unified high schools feature eight 50-minute periods for students daily. In a block schedule system, four daily periods would be 90 minutes long, and students would have each class every other day instead of daily.
According to Thielen, most high schools in communities with the academy model operate on block schedules since students get more time to work on complicated projects, which will be more important in the academies system.
“It will allow the time to dig down deeper into the work that students are doing,” he said.
Thielen said the district will work with parents in settings like next week’s meetings to address concerns about the new system.
“Like with anything, some times when you have change there’s angst,” he said. “Our job is to alleviate that as much is possible with the best information we can share with them.”
Tapp added that the block system would let students do internships at local businesses. The business community in Racine has been instrumental in making the schools’ transformations possible.
“Our relationship with the business community is very, very deep,” Tapp said. “They have been involved every step of the way.”
With district staff and local businesses on board, the upcoming meetings will try to add parents and students to that mix.
“Parents may have questions, and so that’s the point of these meetings next week,” Tapp said. “If they have questions, we can answer them.”
Thielen stressed the transformation will be made with the best interests of the district’s students in mind.
“It’s about how we’re transforming our schools and how we’re providing the best possible educational opportunities for our students in that,” he said.