By Maddie McDonagh, Copy Editor
//The Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) has temporarily transitioned all four of the high schools to a block schedule from May 16 to May 27 in order to accommodate the Smarter Balance Assessments. Students, teachers, and parents, have mixed responses in regards to the schedule change.
According to a survey conducted by Blueprint, 52.4 percent of 185 Acalanes students prefer a block schedule to a conventional schedule.
“I think this block schedule is a great way to relieve student stress, because normally I have way too much homework and not enough time to do it and participate in sports and extracurricular activities,” one surveyed student said.
A majority of students, 62.2 percent, say that they have less homework than with a conventional schedule. In addition, 60.5 of students say that they generally feel less stressed.
“I love the block schedule because it gives students an extra day to do homework and talk to their teachers if questions come up,” said junior Hannah Gurson. “ I feel a lot less stressed because I surprisingly have less homework this week.”
However, there is still a great number of students who are less receptive towards the block schedule. Almost a third of students, 29.7 percent say that they prefer a conventional schedule.
“I feel like the block schedule made classes I normally enjoyed boring. 90 minutes seems like too much time for a class period. Students attention span dissipates as more time goes by,” a surveyed student said.
The opinions of this student were reflected in the results of the survey. In fact, 64.6 percent of students find that it is more difficult for them to maintain their attention span because of the longer period. Although, a few students, 26 percent said that the block schedule had no effect on their attention span and 9.4 percent it actually improved their attention span.
“Most teachers have adjusted their teaching style so that we aren’t just doing the same thing the whole period, so for me it’s not very difficult to pay attention,” sophomore Martha Yates said. “I also think it’s really nice for art and science classes because we can do more labs and projects without being disrupted.”
Many teachers, aware of students’ fading attention, allowed a short break during the 90 minute period. Almost half of teachers, 49.2 percent, gave their students a break at some point during class. However, the length of the break varied. Of the students who said they had a break during class, 36.7 percent say their break was less than five minutes, 45.9 say their break was around five minutes, 9.2 say their break was around ten minutes, 3.1 say their break was around fifteen minutes, and 5.1 say their break was longer than fifteen minutes.
Despite the majority of positive feedback towards the block schedule, 45.9 percent of students surveyed say that they believe the schedule slows the pace of instruction while 21.6 percent say it increases the pace of instruction. The remaining students, 32.4 percent say that the block schedule has no effect on the pace of instruction.
“I think that block schedule allows for teachers to spend more time covering the material, which slows the pace of instruction but it’s beneficial,” junior Skylar Jeveli.
According to a vast majority of students, one major drawback of the block schedule is that there is no late start on Wednesday. Over half of students, 59.5 percent say that they do not like starting at the normal time on Wednesdays.
“I do wish that the Wednesday schedule started a little later but I don’t mind too much,” Gurson, who previously attended Heritage High School, said. “At my old school they used to start school at 9:30 every other Wednesday so I do think the district could’ve tried a little harder to give us one day to sleep in, but otherwise I’m fine with it.”
Another downside of the block schedule is the increased traffic in the Acalanes parking lot on days where everyone gets out of school at 1:30. This is an issue for the many parents picking up their teens and the students trying to leave the parking lot.
“There was one day when I couldn’t even pull into the parking lot because it was backed up so badly. It took about ten minutes longer than usual,” Acalanes mother Lynne McCandless said.
Reactions from Acalanes teachers have varied greatly when it comes to the block schedule. Acalanes Spanish teacher Heidi Skvarna enjoys some aspects of the block schedule, however, believes there is one major drawback for foreign language classes.
“I feel a little restricted with the fifty minute schedule and so I’m able to expand upon the curriculum a little bit more,” Skvarna said. “A downside would be that I don’t see my students everyday and for a language, I think that speaking the language everyday is really important.”
However, for other classes such as math, the block schedule is a blessing.
“I think the block schedule has positively impacted my classes because I can accomplish more without having the material broken up,” math teacher Barbara Mochizuki said. “You can get more covered in a different way, and can also use different kinds of activities that you may not be able to do when you’re doing a lot of starting and stopping during a normal 50 minute period.”
Acalanes performing arts and publications dislike the block schedule.
“I don’t like the block schedule. The schedule messed up my concerts from this week. I just feel I can get more done if I see my students every day,” orchestra and band teacher Norm Dea said.
According to AUHSD Superintendent John Nickerson, there is a School Day Schedule Task Force comprised of students, teachers, and administrators that is working on various ways to improve the school day which includes looking at the possibility of a block schedule for the 2017-2018 school year.
“There was board report two days ago on it and there is a recommendation to the Board to start a block schedule of 2017-2018,” Nickerson said.
Sophomore Katrina Lee mentioned she would be in favor of a block schedule in the future.
“Having block schedule makes me more organized and I’ve been planning out my weeks with my planner more often than usual,” Lee said. “I also think we get a lot more work done in each class.”
Adapted from Issue 8, Volume 77. Originally printed May 27, 2016.