In-Depth: New block schedule format has pros, cons

Megan Shafar, Staff Reporter

As some students and staff began seeing additional benefits in the change to a block schedule, some wondered if the format should have been kept going into the 2021-22 school year.

Joe Bush wanted to get that conversation going.

It was the fall of 2020, and Bush, a social studies teacher, sent a survey to EGHS teachers. On it, he asked if they would prefer to either continue the 70-minute block schedule — which contained alternating days with four periods each day to allow for a safer return to in-person school during the pandemic — or return to the original eight-period day.

Ninety-four out of 120 staff members he sent it to responded, with the overwhelming majority saying they either preferred to keep the block schedule or had no preference.

“It was just a starting point; shortly after that, the district began asking those questions, too,” he said.

A little less than a year later, it was official. Elk Grove High School, as well as the other Township High School District 214 schools, will remain on the current 80-minute block schedule for at least the next two years.

Like at Elk Grove, the dialogue at the district level indicated that most teachers wanted to keep the block format. Social studies teacher Jim Arey, who is the president of the teacher’s union in the district, explained that last winter, each school in the district had its own vote between teachers. While each school could have individually chosen one schedule or another, each one found that the majority wanted to be on a block schedule.

Thus, the decision became district-wide. 

A calendar committee with representatives from each school was also involved in the decision, and there was communication and discussion within each school’s community. 

The current schedule will continue for at least the 2022-23 school year, when, after the two pilot years are up, there will be another vote. Depending on the opinions of teachers, as well as analysis of data about how the schedule affected various factors, such as graduation rates or test scores, the block schedule might continue longer, or it could return to an eight-period day. 

As of right now, though, the block schedule was, according to the majority of teachers, the choice that made the most sense.

“From a health standpoint during a pandemic, this would keep us in school better than seeing everybody every day,” Arey said. 

Division among students

Many students and teachers agree that the current block schedule has both pros and cons. The 80-minute classes are one factor that have stoked division.

“The classes are too long,” sophomore Junior Urbano said.

Sophomore Monika Kutseva echoed Urbano, saying, “I just wish all classes were on one day because they’d be shorter periods.” She added she’d like it even better if students had two free periods over the course of the day.

On the other hand, some — especially teachers — see the long classes as a benefit.

“As a teacher, I like having longer periods to get a bigger chunk of things done without having to restart,” English teacher Mary Larson said. 

According to some students, another benefit of the block is that the days feel more manageable.

“I think it’s a little bit long, but I think it’s OK because we only have four classes each day,” sophomore Yajaira Banuelos said. “You can get more things done since it’s longer.”

Having a study hall has also been helpful for many students, and the A and B Day schedule can give students more time to complete assignments.

“It’s also useful for homework. I get less, but I know some people who get more,” sophomore AJ Djuma said. 

Senior Joey Martorano also said he likes the alternating days because of the gap between school days.

However, he said he misses having more passing periods each day.

“It’s a long time to be sitting in one class,” he said, mentioning that he liked being able to walk around more frequently during the old schedule. 

Another factor affecting some students and staff is the adjustment in lunch periods. Classes with B lunch are split into two halves that meet before and after lunch. English teacher Alissa Prendergast teaches one section of AP Lang with B lunch.

“Usually, I think we find a pretty natural end,” Prendergast said. “Once in a while, it’ll be a weird break, and it’s hard to get back into what we were doing, but overall, I think it’s worked out well.”

Moving forward, the pandemic could continue affecting whether or not the block schedule is necessary.

On the other hand, if the pandemic worsens, the block could become more important, as Arey noted.

It’s too soon to tell what the schedule will look like two years from now at the end of the pilot. Currently, there is an A/B Block Committee of EGHS teachers working to gather data on the block schedule and how it is affecting various factors. 

“I think it needs to be a collaboration of, hey, this is going well, and this is not going well; let’s see what we can do to help each other because it’s new for all of us,” math teacher Persida Bujdei said.