Paul Public Schools will move to block scheduling at all high schools next year, with each student taking four classes on one day and four different classes the next.
The change will cut down on the number of transitions in hallways, where behavioral problems often arise.
Officials say that it will also give more opportunities to students to take elective courses and should be good for education.
“Transitions are tough for students and teachers,” said Robin Asher, a biology teacher who serves on a district working group that recommended the move; He has assumed a new post with the district to coordinate the change of schedule.
Asher said her classes have recently grown a dissection lab to three days because of the time it takes to set up and dispense materials. The longer class duration — 79 minutes as opposed to 44 — would make it easier to manage those labs and help teachers connect with their students, she said.
District high schools experimented with block schedules last spring when students returned to their schools after a long period of distance learning, as coronavirus cases dwindled and teachers were offered vaccines. District surveys showed that both students and teachers liked it.
Seven-term days have always been stressful for students, said Darren Ginther, director of college and career preparedness, and “it was terribly aggravated during the pandemic.”
This fall, Washington, Humboldt and Open World Learning are still on block schedules, while others have seven periods each day.
School board member Jim Wu said his son is a freshman in the OWL this year and the block schedule is helping him pace his work.
Board member Chauntyll Allen said there’s a lot to like about block scheduling. “Less infections, less chaos,” she said.
With everyone on the same daily schedule, it would be possible for teachers of less enrolled classes to teach students from multiple schools online at the same time. Students will also have less trouble transferring between schools.
With block scheduling, students will be in class for eight more minutes each day. However, moving from seven classes to eight would reduce the time spent in each individual class by 10 per cent.
The district will train teachers for a longer period in the spring and summer.
Block scheduling isn’t the only permanent change for high schools to come out of the pandemic. The district is making it easier and more convenient for students to recover lost credit. And it has introduced grading changes that focus on whether students mastered the material before the end of the semester, not on how they performed along the way.