What are the effects of a block schedule?

Photo courtesy Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Despite initial skepticism and even fear that students, administrators and teachers had for the block system, Carrboro High School seems to have adapted well. CHS teacher Jamie Fernandez-Schendt is confident that not only will it be successful this year, but AP students shouldn’t have any extra worries about their testing.

Fernandez-Schendt says class schedules have been an ongoing topic of debate at CHS, and change was bound to happen even before Covid-19 became an issue. Younger grades at CHS even experienced some forms of block classes in their schedules in recent years. After months of discussing the pros and cons of the options, and what schedule would be the best for students’ mental health and learning ability, CHS decided on a block schedule in late June. 

This decision was met by initial panic from students and their families, as many were intimidated by such a big change.

After more than a month of using the system, students are starting to settle into the schedule, and some even appreciate the block schedule. 

“Block classes are great for my sleep schedule, and they leave more time for me to work on college applications,” said senior Julian Taylor. 

The theme of appreciating extra time during a typical school day was echoed by freshman Finn Nilsen. 

 “I have a lot of free time.  And it’s easier to focus on each class because there are fewer of them,” said Nilsen.

One of the biggest reasons for panic and confusion over switching to the block schedule was AP testing. Many students rely on good scores on AP tests to save them money when they are in college, so worries over how to squeeze a whole AP class into half a year — or even a few weeks less, in the spring — are not unfounded. The AP testing dates do not change for a block schedule, so in early May, all AP students will take them. However, this doesn’t phase Mr. Ferndandez-Schendt, who has worked in schools with block schedules before. 

“I don’t have concerns about that; almost every other school in the state has a similar schedule and is still able to have success… I’m confident that with my position as Equity and Excellence Coordinator and with the buy-in I know we have from our teachers, we will be able to make this successful,” said Fernandez-Schendt.

It is important for students to remember that while they are working through changes, teachers are as well. Teachers have to adjust their classes to fit the hour and half periods while also implementing breaks without ruining the flow of the class. Ferndandez-Schendt said that teachers were given recommendations on how to effectively provide breaks but were not given any specific instructions to follow, meaning every teacher is doing it a little differently.

Regardless of how you feel about the new schedule, it’s important to stay focused and engaged this school year. Covid-19 is affecting people all over the world and it will be interesting to see which of these changes will stick around after the virus is under more control. As Ferndandez-Schendt said, it’s most important that we all stay safe as a community. 

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