Block Scheduling: The Productivity Game Changer

By Jenna Poppell

This school year, Oak Hall’s Middle and Upper School faculty and administration made the change in its schedule, from students attending seven classes Monday through Friday to attending seven classes Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, and attending four classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The block schedule concept was designed to give students more time to finish tests and labs, which might have taken two class periods to complete in previous school years. 

John Perlette, Director of the Upper School, explained that block scheduling was designed to help students complete assignments. “[Students] really didn’t have enough time to do what [they] needed to do, and do it well,” he said. Another reason for the change was to provide teachers the ability to give longer assessments and assign opportunities to write essays in class. 

Many students at Oak Hall were curious as to why the administration chose Wednesday and Thursday, instead of two other days within the school week. Perlette justified this reasoning because the other days simply didn’t work as well with the school’s schedule. “We had originally suggested going Thursday and Friday, but then we realized there wouldn’t be another contact with some teachers, if you miss Friday, and then the weekend, until Monday,” he noted. 

2019-20 Upper School Schedule, with block days on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The administration has heard many positives since the change took place, and that it has given students time to get more work done during the day. Perlette also recognized that, while for some teachers it may be a challenge at first with adjusting to a longer class period, the change will be worth it in the long run. “I think everybody is going to adapt to this, and find a way to make it work, and make it really successful,” he said enthusiastically. Perlette does not think that in the upcoming years, Oak Hall will change to a complete block schedule, because “going with the modified block, you get the best of both worlds.” 

Upper School Spanish teacher, Libby Karow, was a little hesitant on the change, but understood how it benefited the students. “I think the students feel like the days that are block days go by faster for them,” Karow explained. “I was afraid that the 90 minute class periods would make the days feel longer, but it’s actually been the opposite,” she continued.

Karow also expressed her concern with giving the students too much free time, as the students may not use it the way it was designed. “If a kid’s schedule works out where they have these massive amounts of time that are free and unsupervised, I think that’s probably not for the best,” she added. Karow also discovered that scheduling testing has been a little tricky for her. She feels that the block schedule has made her rethink her approach when planning lessons. On the positive side, Karow notes that she has been given the opportunity to do more class projects where she can advise the students, as opposed to them trying to figure it out alone at home. “I was opposed to the change at first, but looking back, it has worked out to be beneficial in so many ways,” she explained.

2019-20 Middle School Schedule, with block days on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

But how do the students feel about the change? Grace Bernstein, a junior at Oak Hall, expressed that the new “FLEX” period, a period designed to give students time to work, has been one of her favorite parts about this change. “The FLEX period is really nice. It’s a nice time to talk to teachers because everyone is available,” she commented. Bernstein admitted that the system could be improved, and having less schedules would be more efficient. “I think if we were to keep the block schedule, we should make it more than two days,” she suggested. “We have, like, six schedules going on right now and it makes it really confusing for everyone.” 

While Bernstein believes there is room for improvement, she thinks it could be a great change for our school. “If we can really refine the block schedule and have it more laid out, then I think it could be a really useful thing for teachers and students.” 

About the author: Jenna Poppell is a junior at Oak Hall. She is an Eagles swimmer and loves books. After taking Journalism I-Honors last year, Poppell realized her love for writing, and wanted to continue improving in the craft.