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Students head back to school for registration

John Primrose helps his son, Landon register for classes at South Whidbey High School this week. Volunteers and school personnel manned computers to aid students in making adjustments to their final schedules. - Gayle Saran
John Primrose helps his son, Landon register for classes at South Whidbey High School this week. Volunteers and school personnel manned computers to aid students in making adjustments to their final schedules.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

If two heads are better than one, then three must be great.

That's what South Whidbey High School sophomores discovered during Monday's registration for the 2002-03 school year. Most were accompanied by parents when registering for fall classes, but also got help from community volunteers and school personnel in fitting their requirements and electives to the high school's recently modified block schedule.

Waiting in long lines and working their way maze of forms in the high school's wrestling room, some students were singing the registration blues while others were quite happy with their resulting schedules. Unsmiling parents stood beside their students and expressed frustration with the process, which needed more than half a dozen computers to track it.

But even this was not enough to inspire confidence in some parents.

"It's daunting, a puzzle of mixing and matching until it works," said one parent who did not want to be identified. "I would not want my child to do this alone."

The problem, it seemed, was how to fit student class choices into a new scheduling system that breaks up days in a way that is complex compared to last year. Last spring, the South Whidbey Board of Education adopted a mixed schedule of block and 50-minute class periods effective this school year.

High school administrators were faced with the challenge of creating an entirely new master schedule this summer after spring registration. Students preregistered last spring and had those schedules in hand to begin the final leg of registration. They were expected to honor the courses they committed to in the spring.

Unfortunately, some of those schedules were incorrect.

"They had me signed up for a math class I have not taken the prerequisite for," said sophomore Scott Watts.

He expressed more disappointment at not being able to schedule a physical conditioning class or music theory -- "both of which I wanted to take this year."

Making last spring's registration schedule jibe with this week's was further complicated by the fact that seniors and juniors registered last week, which took choices away from some sophomores as classes filled early. Requests for changes were allowed if a student was misplaced in a course based on ability, did not have the prerequisite for the course, the course signed up for was in conflict on the master schedule or if the the student failed a course and needed to repeat and or replace it.

All other reasons for changes required approval from the administration or counselors. This made principal Mike Johnson a very popular person. Students thrust schedules in front of him for approval of changes.

Fortunately for him, the long wait to register worked in his and students' favor.

"It has helped to slow the process down," Johnson said. "It allows for individual attention and answers to questions."

Following a brief orientation, students could wait to register for class in one of two lines: Express -- which meant no changes were allowed -- or the longer line for changes and additions.

Clinton resident Dory Hallberg chose the longer wait with her son, Jamie.

"This seems stressful to me, although Jamie is getting all the courses he needs to stay on the college track," she said.

Another problem, especially for sophomores and freshmen, arose when some classes they wanted or needed filled up. That was not helpful to sophomore Montana Morley.

"They don't let you takes the classes you need when you have time for them," Morley said. "And they don't have enough classes for everyone to take their requirements."

Administrators planned the registration day based on the assumption that it would take each student about one hour to register. That formula did not hold up. In one instance, sophomores with last names S through Z needed about two hours to get their classes.

"I am glad I brought a book," said John Primrose, who was waiting for his son, Landon, to register. "It's a very lengthy process."

On top of that, Landon did not get the classes he wanted. Primrose said the only bright spot on registration day was the help he and his son received from school staff.

"The school board overlaid a whole new layer of complexity to the process," he said. "None of the classes Landon pre-registered for will end up on his schedule."

What sophomores and freshman, who signed up for their classes Monday and Tuesday found was that a number of classes are on the closed list. Some were not looking forward to the high school's new schedule.

"It's not good this year," said sophomore Aaron Alvis. "They changed everything around. It's confusing."

But others were.

"Everything went perfectly." said sophomore Natalie Alexander. "I got all my classes and my pre-registration form was correct,"

Students head back to class on Sept. 5.

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