It’s been three years since the Freshman Academy switch to an A-B block schedule, and with that comes a variety of experiences for staff and students.
The freshman academy was implemented for the 2007-2008 school year and featured year-long classes.. In 2014, the freshman academy transitioned from the 45 min classes to the A-B Block schedule.
For some students, like senior Nicole Quesinberry, the schedule increased stress level.
“It got a little stressful because some nights I had a lot of homework. But the teachers tried to not give us a lot on the same night,” Quesinberry said.
In the current schedule, students have two core classes on alternating days. They still have four semester-long electives, two each semester. Freshman Academy Principal Lindsey Rice sees both positives and negatives to the structure.
“It has helped students who are organized and take honors classes because they can spread their homework over a couple of nights. I think if you are not an organized student, it can hurt you because you do not see your teachers everyday so you are not reminded everyday when things are due,” she said.
According to science teacher Michael Ferguson, the Academy was implemented to make the move from eighth grade to high school smoother and easier on the students. It was also aimed at ultimately lowering high school dropout rates.
Part of the original design of the program included a year-long physical education class and also a ‘RAMS class’ where students were taught study and life skills to help with the transition to high school.
“Initially, we had other components that no longer exist. [RAMS] was a freshmen seminar class that taught skills that are not taught in other classes,” Ferguson said. “With those things being gone, it takes away some of the original intent. As a positive, it is a home base for the freshmen, and the teachers are there to support them.”
Freshman academies started being promoted in the early 2000s by the North Carolina State Board of Education. Once freshman academies began being implemented in the state, non-promotion rates of freshmen decreased by 16 percent.
“The program has positively affected dropout numbers and our graduation rate has improved each year since we have had the academy,” Rice said.
Even though the Roberson school district mixes students from Valley Springs and Cane Creek middle schools, rivalry tension has not be a problem, according to Rice.
“Once they come here, I do not think they have a problem seeing themselves as Roberson students. They certainly form bonds on sports teams and in the classrooms,” she said.
Two high schools in Buncombe County have freshman academies. Those schools are TC Roberson and Erwin High School. Each county has different procedures, but in Buncombe County, individual schools decide what they want to do and then must be approved by the Superintendent.
North Henderson High School had a freshman academy, which was implemented in the school year of 2008-2009. However, they recently went back to a traditional structure and changed the program back. According to former North Henderson academy teacher Jason Livingston, the school went through an administrative change and the decision was made to go in a different direction.
However, at Roberson, students and faculty have seen a number of benefits in the way it is currently structured.
“The teachers are very understanding, and you can just go during SMART period. The freshman academy teachers really care about each student and their strengths,” freshman Katie Pritchard said.