As Berkeley High School (BHS) approaches the end of the 2021-22 school year, the administration looks to the students for ways to improve BHS in the coming years. Last March, the BHS administration sent out a survey available to all students, staff, and families regarding what they like and don’t like about BHS, as well as some possible changes that could be implemented next year. These changes could include a move away from Late Start Monday, as well as a shift to a block schedule from the traditional six class schedule in place currently.
Led by BHS’s relatively new Bell Schedule Committee, the group of BHS teachers and staff heading up the process, the school hopes to take stock of what BHS students want and need going forward into future years.
“We’re taking a wide view of how we use instructional time here at Berkeley High School, as well as investigating whether there are better ways that we can support students academically as well as socially and emotionally,” said Harrison Blatt, BHS vice principal.
According to Blatt, the committee is currently in their “Listen and Learn” phase, the second of the five-stage process outlined by the committee. This step includes discussions with the community, visiting other high schools in the area, and more.
“We’re trying to gather as much information as we can, look at different school data, and do a literature review,” Blatt said. “We did site visits to other high schools, and we are working toward a possible proposal for our redesigned bell schedule.”
BHS representatives are currently in the process of writing a report on the campuses they visited. They looked at Albany High School and El Cerrito High School to gather information about what makes their schedules unique.
At El Cerrito High School, members of BHS’s bell schedule committee examined the school’s block schedule, where students take three to four classes each semester, with longer class periods.
“What we saw was that a lot of students liked having fewer classes at a time to focus on, while educators liked having longer class periods and consistent times to meet with their students to go deeper into things like project-based learning,” Blatt said. “They also felt they had more time to go into more robust class activities that just take more time to do,” he said.
Implementing a block schedule is something that is being actively looked into by the BHS administration. The idea, however, is controversial among the BHS community. In the survey sent out by the committee, students were split on whether they wanted to take all of their classes at once or to transfer to a block system. Staff members were decisively in support of a move away from our current schedule, with almost 70 percent supporting a change.
Another staple of the BHS schedule is also in danger of being binned — Late Start Monday is being put into question. The reason for this possible change is due to BHS’s weekly professional development, taking place Monday mornings before the arrival of students.
According to Blatt, because so many holidays fall on Mondays, by moving professional development to another day of the week, staff stand to gain an “extra 10 and a half hours” of development time each school year. Whether or not this is something that will change, however, is still unclear, as there has been vehement support of Late Start Mondays from students and parents alike.
“Late Start Monday really helps me stay motivated,” said Shima Dixon, a junior in Academic Choice (AC). “It’s hard to end a weekend, so having a day to slowly progress into the week makes [the transition] much easier.”
BHS doesn’t expect to make any concrete changes very soon, with their current timeline aiming to have an updated bell schedule by the 2023-24 school year. The board will decide on whether or not to put the proposed changes into practice by the end of fall 2022. Preparations will be completed throughout the 2022-23 school year, before being put in motion the following fall.