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Block Scheduling is ‘The Wrong Thing’ for Clayton Schools
The School District of Clayton is looking at how to begin learning next year, especially in the secondary schools Wydown and Clayton, but it's undecided with more vaccine data coming in and more immunization records too, so nobody will take another weird year.
May 6, 2021
Let’s look back at this crazy year we have experienced in school. In March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to change our learning model for 4th quarter that year. It was the most lonely quarter anyone could ever experience because we didn’t have the proper resources to connect daily with teachers like normal. After looking at what others were using in my household, Google Meet could have been that resource in the beginning, mainly because some of us used it every once in a while for simple meetings. Otherwise, we did our work individually and the grading policies were irregular. Even though learning got better this school year with increasing interactions between students and teachers, we still were experiencing irregular learning via Zoom for the first two to three months, and still when everyone was in person, four of eight classes a day in the secondary level for three hours at a time, and now we are changing our schedule next quarter doing the same thing but blending the in-person people in for four hours at once, earlier timing. Because this year has been constantly mixing up and a seven-hour day is guaranteed for next year, we have got to get back to our traditional schedule.
It was the second when Speech and Language Pathologist Julie Geissler told me that blocking was being implemented as our future, that I started thinking my high school experience was about to crash even further. Optimistic was the word of the year this year for me because I’ve been hoping to get back to traditional school, and we’re still not there. Covid-19 was the main focus in this past year, but CHS principal Dr. Dan Gutchewsky said an unusual answer to me as I was writing to him about my reactions.
“This is first and foremost a response to Covid prevention,” Gutchewsky wrote, “and is a one year adjustment while we continue to study the schedule and implement permanent changes in the 2022-23 school year.”
We need to be looking at what is happening now. Different teachers are getting, or have gotten vaccinated from the virus this month. For example, we had CTE adviser Mrs. Erin Sucher O’ Grady, English teacher Ms. Katie Cooper, orchestra director Mr. Daniel Hendrson and Ms. Mary Kay Sandhu in the SSD who got vaccinated the week of March 7, 2021, and many more ever since. At my globe meeting on that Monday, Mrs. Sucher O’ Grady addressed that we’re planning on an event called Camp Globe at the end of the summer from August 11 to 15. Because it involves everyone in the whole department except for the new reporters, she had said that it would not be possible for this event to take place until all students are vaccinated as well. So, if Covid is going to be one of the reasons that block scheduling will be implemented next year, then we shouldn’t finalize anything until when we are only one month away from beginning the 2021-22 school year.
It’s also that sense of unevenness that comes in when thinking about block scheduling. You may think that all teachers will be able to come to their students every day, but if you look in the orchestra department in both schools, it doesn’t work. Mrs. Carolyn Day who teaches at Wydown, and Mr. Henderson who teaches at Clayton are both expected to be educating their students in grades 6 through 12. Normally whenever one of them is not teaching, the other one assists all orchestra classes at each school, taking turns. This means that Mr. Henderson would assist the Wydown kids in their classes, and Mrs. Day doing the same thing but with the two at Clayton. Again, Wydown and Clayton are currently planning on doing the same type of thing with this block schedule. Mrs. Day has her orchestra classes from periods two to five, which the fifth one would not be in the same day. For Mr. Henderson, he teaches his orchestras 6th Hour (Concert) and 7th Hour (Symphonic). There would be no gap for Mrs. Day to be able to drive from Wydown and come to Clayton in the time she would normally have to arrive in time for Mr. Henderson’s Concert Orchestra, and Mr. Henderson would not be able to assist the second sixth grade orchestra class, which is Mrs. Day’s fifth period.
Snow days are also another sign of unevenness during block scheduling, even if there’s only one of them. The amount of education time would not be the same, depending on the A and B groupings of each half out of eight classes. It can mess up a teacher’s plans for their students for the day if not all of their classes are in the same block. When we have a snow day, it skips the type of day it is. For example, when I was in elementary school at Captain, our days were letters A to E, and if a C day was the day before the snow day, there wouldn’t even be a D Day. Balances in the amount of days of every class must remain the same, unless it’s taken at certain times and is only a certain length long, such as Clayton’s Health and P.E. classes.
Lower classmen also are not going to want to wait another year to know not only CHS better, but know everything better again. They never got a chance to take a field trip and go to two different classes with a student to gain experience, and to learn about what all classes are like that day because a snow day that year, January 17 2020, made us lose preparation and for them to dig deeper.
I feel so bad for the current freshman and sixth graders at Wydown, as well as the kindergartners, because they aren’t viewing what we would call normal, but in this case it’s called irregular. Regular is what everyone else has been talking about and hopeful for this entire year, and we didn’t get it yet.
Time can be disorganized in minutes as well when it comes to block scheduling. In general, students may want less homework, but they certainly will not take sitting still for ninety minutes straight, for one class period.
Since this year did it for us, students may even lose their energy they get at school. Most people lost confidence during their first year of high school, because they didn’t all understand that grades matter. For me, when I started freshman year, I started doing a good job from day one, even if I had too much work that I still sped up on, and did well on too. I’m going to be taking honors biology next year for science, and I would be pleased to see a regular experience coming out of this as my first honors class.
Block scheduling floods down the streets in not many ways, but they are deep enough to understand that it’s the wrong thing for our school district in the secondary level. Teachers need to keep showing off their roles in education here in the district, especially in the orchestra department which nearly had that loss this year. Everyone else needs a regular experience, my class too because the lockdown last year interrupted it for us. More teachers are getting vaccinated over time, and more data in general is coming in for teens, which will eventually come to the younger kids. So, please agree with me that block scheduling doesn’t define what we have simply been optimistic about this whole year, a year of our old status quo (even if masks would be worn at the start of next year), instead of hope and tenativity.
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