Last school year, administrators sent out a survey to all Berkeley High School (BHS) students, requesting their input on a schedule change for the 2021-22 school year. The choice was between a block schedule featuring 100-minute classes but only three periods, or returning to the normal six-period system of pre-pandemic schooling. While it wasn’t approved for the current school year, BHS is still looking into implementing this change, or one similar, next year. However, the need for that change has entirely passed. Students are now just trying to get back into the hang of in-person school, and another major change that would uproot their routines is not beneficial, so BHS must not approve the block schedule plan.
The transition from distance learning straight back to in-person school has been hard on many students, to say the least. Had the school wanted to ease people back in, then a hybrid schedule could have been very beneficial. However, since the block plan was not approved in time for this year, it no longer makes sense to switch up the format of school on students who have been standing on unstable ground for the last two years. If BHS decides that a schedule change must happen, then they must not opt for a block period model.
It’s important for students to be able to focus in classes, and sitting for long periods doing the same task will impede learning rather than help it grow. Many students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes, where the class style is lecture-based. While this is sustainable for an hour, under longer periods many kids will get restless and their focus will be lost. According to Penn State researchers, the attention span of teenagers is around 8 seconds. A 55 minute class period is already long enough to wear down the concentration of students, but increasing it to 100 minutes would make keeping students focused much more challenging, leading to less learning comprehension. This would prevent learning and negatively impact students’ stamina for work.
One appreciated and unique opportunity that BHS offers students is late start Mondays. Teenagers’ bodies are on a very different clock than those of the adult population, and tend to need to sleep in and stay up late more than a full-grown body. Late start Mondays are the only day of the week that many students can get a full night’s sleep. However, last year’s proposed schedule eliminated this aspect of student life. By taking away late start Mondays again, BHS would be taking away the one opportunity that benefits students physically and mentally.
No one can deny that forming student-teacher connections is important, and it’s very considerate of BHS staff to strive for that next year. However, while social-emotional learning is important and should be incorporated, a block schedule — especially after a year of BHS regaining its footing — is not the way to accomplish this.