Staff Editorial: New block schedule will help students

During the 21-22 school year, District 127 will implement a new block schedule to help improve students’ daily agenda. Classes will change to 90 minutes instead of 75, or the 50 from an eight period day. The school will start 15 minutes later for North at 8:15 a.m. and 45 minutes later at Central, giving North and Central the same start and end times. Students will get out at 3:23 p.m.  A block schedule will help break up students’ workloads, making it easier to manage.

By having 90-minute classes, it allows for students to engage in more authentic learning while also allowing students to focus on four periods a day instead of eight. 

“What the data tells us is there was no negative academic impact moving from an eight-period day to a four-period day. No negative academic impact in terms of performance of standardized tests like ACT, SAT, those kinds of things. No negative impact on graduation rates. No negative impact on passing percentages. But what it shows us, what the data did tell us, was students who were in a block schedule like the one we’re going to reported way less stress and way better life to school balance than the kids in an eight-period schedule,” said assistant superintendent for teaching, learning and innovation, Dr. Tracey Landry.

After evaluating schools with several different bell schools, the committee decided to visit two of the districts whose schedules they evaluated that were similar to what North was interested in evaluating. 

“The students loved having this 90-minute block four times a day. The pace was slower. Kids were calmer; it was healthier. Students had time in the day to get help from teachers, to meet with peers and to get some work done. It helped them have a better life balance,” Landry said.

The 2018-2019 school year was a part of a strategic planning process that happens every four or five years when the school district comes together and re-evaluates the mission and the goals of the district. Members of the community are pulled in to evaluate how the district has done and what their goals might be. During that time, they rewrote District 127’s mission statement.

“Our mission statement now is: We empower all learners to launch their futures through relevant, engaging, authentic learning. That mission was built through that process and so was our portrait of a graduate, but it basically spells out what we want our students to leave high school with,” Landry said. 

They evaluated the bell schedule on what is and isn’t working and on what they would like to see in an ideal bell schedule. 

“Does our bell schedule allow us to achieve the goal of relevant engaging and authentic learning? Does it build in the time students need to really dig deeply into the content we’re asking them to learn and engage with? And also does our current bell schedule support the social and emotional help of our students?” Landry said.

The bell schedule that District 127 has adopted is the Glenview bell schedule except classes start slightly later because of the committee’s sleep study research.

“Adolescents do better if they can sleep in a little later in the mornings. That became important for us, and it became important for the Board that we figure out ways to start a little bit later, late as we can without pushing it too late on the other end,” Landry said. 

Students will still have seven classes plus a lunch period. While a lunch happens every day, a Knights period will take place where the lunch did in an eight period day.  Periods 3 or 7 are the lunch periods where lunch is built-in being the only time there would be no students with a Knights period. 

“As far as the current day, all of the classes that are currently offered to students will still be offered to students. They’d still choose seven classes like they had in the past, and so none of that will change. All of the old offerings are still available to kids. They’re not losing anything. As a matter of fact they’re regaining time throughout the day to do things that they didn’t previously have, and lunch is automatically built-in so, that doesn’t take up one of your class slots,” Landry said.

A Knights period allows for teachers to not have to worry about covering outside curriculum like Knights Way and does not take away class time for assemblies. 

“What’s kind of nice is during that Knights period we can do grade-specific assemblies. For example, the senior assembly where they talk about graduation and gowns and all of that stuff that will normally happen and during period two would now happen all day long during Knights period, so kids would just join their Knight period for their assembly,” Landry said.

The school’s PowerSchool is not currently set up for a block schedule and will need to be rebuilt for one.

“One of the things that has to happen is we have to completely rebuild power school for next year, and that hasn’t happened yet because we’re still in this school year. PowerSchool is still structured under the eight period day, and this summer and behind the scenes, we will be rebuilding PowerSchool. It’s a major undertaking, but we’re going to be rebuilding it so that it looks different next year and it looks the way you need it to look,” Landry said.

This will be super effective for the district. Many students have been doing slightly better this year with this schedule, but not because of isolation, because we have a form of a block schedule. Mondays have become difficult, and many wonder how we did it in previous years. This will help future and current students at District 127.