Administration considers common break period and shifting from daily classes to block schedule

Mia Deno

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I n response to concerns about student stress, the administration is currently deciding whether to keep the school’s current daily schedule or change to one of two possible new schedules for the 2017–2018 school year.

One is a “Daily Neutral” schedule, with all classes meeting Tuesday through Friday for 50 minutes, and a Monday schedule with an hour for morning staff meetings, causing classes to last 40 minutes.

The other schedule is a “Modified Block” with the same meeting schedule on Monday, 50-minute class schedules on Thursday and Friday and, for the first time, 90-minute class periods for even Blocks 2, 4, 6 and 8 on Tuesday and 90-minute class periods for odd Blocks 1, 3, 5 and 7 on Wednesday.

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The committee of eight staff members that created the proposals aims to create a schedule that provides more focused time on tasks and reduces stress, according to assistant principal Dacotah Swett.

The school has to submit a plan to the state for the new schedule by April, according to Swett.

New mid-day break

To help address the stress problem at Lowell, each schedule includes a common break time for faculty, staff and students, according to science teacher and scheduling committee member Katherine Melvin. The current schedule does not have a built-in break period, just a 15-minute Registry period at 9:30 a.m. Students’ break time depends on their individual schedules.

In contrast, both proposed schedules have Reg moved to the middle of the day followed by a 30- or 40-minute break period.

“With students, often they can’t stay after school because of other obligations.”

Melvin said teachers currently struggle to find a time to meet with other teachers or students. “There are people that I want to collaborate with and I cannot collaborate with unless one of us stays after school,” Melvin said. “With students, often they can’t stay after school because of other obligations.”

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The new schedule might also help the issue of students without lunch periods, according to Melvin. “They’ll have five or six classes straight with no lunch and they’re trying to make a deal with their teachers so that they can eat something in English,” Melvin said.

The Daily Neutral Schedule is one of two proposed schedules for 2017–2018.

“By having every class every single day, I felt like I was being dragged by a horse through mud and it wouldn’t stop.”

The Modified Block Schedule is one of two proposed schedules for 2017–2018.

New class times

In the proposed Daily Neutral schedule, classes would meet every day, as they do now, while in the Modified Block schedule, classes would only meet four days a week.

A lack of continuity was a concern that some teachers mentioned. World Language and Visual and Performing Arts departments argued that class every day was a necessity in order to learn a new language or skill, according to Swett. The Math department also prefers to have class every day, according to math teacher Robert Tran.

Meanwhile, the English and Science departments wanted longer blocks for discussion and labs. In the current schedule, almost all classes alternate between 45 and 60 minutes. In the proposed Modified Block schedule, classes would meet for 90 minutes on Tuesday or Wednesday.

But some students are concerned that it would be difficult to focus on one class subject and sit still for long periods of time. “I get hungry and I’m going to have to wait to eat,” sophomore Liana Rokh said.

Starting time

The Modified Block schedule’s starting and ending times may be an issue for those who are used to having Block 1 or 8 off. On Tuesdays, Block 2 would start at 7:55 a.m. rather than the current 8:25 or 8:40 a.m. Likewise, for students who have Block 8 off for athletics or after-school commitments, Block 7 would end at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays rather than the current 2:25 or 2:40 p.m.

“I get hungry and I’m going to have to wait to eat.”

Reducing stress

Some students think a schedule change would reduce Lowell’s stressful atmosphere. Senior Rebecca Nguyen transferred to Lowell her sophomore year from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, which has a block schedule with breaks where not every class meets every day, in contrast to Lowell’s current schedule.

The transfer to Lowell was difficult as she found herself drowning in work, according to Nguyen. “By having every class every single day, I felt like I was being dragged by a horse through mud and it wouldn’t stop,” Nguyen said. She also said that there is no time to break down class material if you are confused after class because of the consecutive classes. At SHCP, there are 10-minute passing periods, as well as one 15-minute break similar to Reg, and a lunch period of at least 40 minutes.

The process

The schedules have passed through many departments and will be sent to student groups like Peer Resources, the Lowell Student Association and the Student Body Council, where the scheduling committee will receive feedback, according to Swett. The committee will then edit the schedule as needed and submit it to the administration for a final veto or approval. From there, it will be sent to the state.

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Administration considers common break period and shifting from daily classes to block schedule