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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Robinson: School to switch to rolling block schedule in 2016-17

The school will be adopting a rolling block schedule for the 2016-2017 school year, principal Paul Robinson announced at a faculty meeting on Monday. The decision was made without the voting and discussion among staff that had occurred in previous years. 
 For students, the biggest impact of this change is that all their classes will no longer meet on Mondays, and tutorials are expected to take place four days a week. The details of the schedule will be finalized in the coming year.
District leadership is interested in having the two high schools on the same schedule to make them more compatible. That way, teachers and even students could switch between schools during the school day.
 A rolling block schedule like the one at Los Gatos would mean that every day would have four 90-minute periods and a 30-minute embedded tutorial, with the exception of Wednesday in order to keep morning collaboration for teachers. The schedules would alternate each week, so the classes that only meet twice one week would meet three times the following week.
Another change in the schedule includes the addition of an eighth period. Robinson said an eighth period would allow for more flexibility with scheduling, but students would only be allowed to take a maximum of seven classes.
In the new schedule, a student could have up to two periods free and could have a late start or be able to leave two periods early. Robinson noted that this would be beneficial to those who have a sport or function better with a later start.
In the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, versions of a rolling block schedule were rejected by roughly two-thirds and 55 percent of staff who voted, respectively. This year, however, Robinson decided the schedule would not be voted on by teachers and administrators. He had previously discussed the change with department chairs and received positive feedback for the switch.
“I know this is what needs to happen for our students’ sake, which is why it is not up to a vote,” he said. “I can’t tell you exactly what it will look like, but it will be good for students when we finish.”
Some of teachers’ biggest concerns are that a full block schedule will reduce the number of days that teachers see their students. Some are worried about the consequences of the weeks when they only see their students twice.  
Social studies teacher Todd Dwyer said, “I fear that the loss of class time will only increase homework load and if [the administration] is going to change the schedule to address the homework issues, I don’t think that getting rid of three and a half weeks of [contact days] is the way to do it.”
French teacher Laura Lizundia said meeting fewer days a week may not help students retain information.
“At least five to 10 minutes of a block period is [already] wasted, in my opinion, on reviewing material that was presented two or more days before; material that would have been readily accessible if students had class more often,” she said. 
Lizundia also fears that having class two to three days a week won’t be enough for students to learn to carry out conversations fluently in another language.
Other teachers love the idea of a rolling block and think that Monday classes are too short for time-consuming activities like labs or Socratic seminars. Longer classes allow for more depth of information and less stress for students overall, they say. 
Teachers like Cathy Head of the English department likes the idea of longer, in-depth Monday classes.
“The modified block has some persistent problems,” she said.  “The Sunday night and Monday night homework crunch generates stress (and complicates lesson planning for teachers trying not to add to the crunch), and full block would take care of that.” 
Many students say they prefer the rolling block schedule because Mondays would be less hectic and homework from every class wouldn’t be due on the same day following a weekend. Also, the eighth period would allow every student to have at least one free period, allowing them to come to school late or leave early.
“The extra amount of tutorials would be nice as it would allow us to work on homework and ask teachers questions on assignments and so forth,” freshman Austin Shi said. “Also, not having to drag heavy backpacks on Monday would be a plus.”
The schedule change would be for the 2016-2017 school year, since such a massive change takes time to implement, longer than the summer between school years. 
 “We will spend a lot of time in collaboration next year working on exactly what it will be, and how it will help students when we implement it,” Robinson said.
 
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