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Concerns Face the Board: Block Scheduling

Monday, November 19, 2018, the Board of Education met at 7:30 pm in the HS/MS Library to discuss the proposed changes to the Middle School and High School schedule. The proposed changes began with a simple dialogue between staff and administration a few years ago and culminated with the recent creation of a proposed block scheduling structure.  The structure calls for what is essentially a drop two schedule, meaning two class periods are dropped each day. By placing eight periods and one twenty minute break period, the school day is extended until 2:45 pm with a new start time of 7:45 am. Finally, a common lunch during which the entire High School will be eating and the extension of periods to 54 minutes was also proposed.  

   The meeting itself opened with a presentation related to the proposed changes and concluded with a host of questions and concerns from the faculty and student audience. Junior Gillian Milbauer posed a variety of questions to the board related the proposed changes included significant concerns due to the lack of regular instructional time and the impact on the Advanced Placement art classes.  Among the students to raise grave concerns among the Junior student body was me, speaking on behalf of my constituency. Using data collected from a preliminary survey, concerns were raised regarding the confusing and awkward nature of block scheduling. The survey represented the preliminary attempt to reach out to the general student body in an attempt to better learn of their concerns and received 63 responses overnight. Of the sixty-three surveyed, only seven students were in favor of block scheduling while 86% opposed block scheduling. Grievances with the proposed schedule change included the confusing nature of having a rotational and constantly changing schedule. A number of students indicated that this would add to other already mounting stress and the extension of periods would result in a serious decline in student focus. Lastly, the concern relating to a lack of student input into the schedule changes were placed at the forefront. After concerns were met with a series of unique responses by the board, Dr. Byrnes agreed to meet with the Blind Brook Student Congress to further discuss the matter at future meetings.  

   In addition to the concerns raised by students, an outpouring of teacher concerns filled the comment period.  Among them, distinguished teachers with years of professional experience in education discuss the detrimental impacts of block scheduling on the already packed homework and testing schedule. Furthermore, concerns were raised regarding student focus with period extensions, specifically among our valuable Special Education staff.  The claim that the schedule would serve to alleviate student stress was countered by a number of professionals, indicating the earlier start time as detrimental to that attempt. Safety and noise concerns related to the massive influx of students in the commons due to a common lunch was also raised, with no clear solution in sight.  

Overall, the meeting provided the general Blind Brook community with a valuable resource, a location to raise ongoing concerns relating to proposed changes to daily life at Blind Brook. Although actively seeking to embrace project and problem-based learning, it remains unclear the exact correlation between an adjusted schedule and such a change, seeing the variety of steps already taken to develop such innovative curriculum designs. The meeting enabled the effective distribution of materials to a number of constituents, including mine but a number of concerns are still being raised by the general student body. Ultimately, the meeting provided the opportunity to hold a discussion among the students, board, and staff relating to block scheduling and I look forward to continuing the dialogue in an effort to champion the voices of my constituency.