Next year’s schedule uncertain while opinions vary on possible choices

With the choice for next year’s schedule being primarily between block and standard, some students have opinions on both choices

With the future of the COVID19 pandemic still uncertain, many decisions for the 20212022 year are unfinalized. One question that remains is whether Shorewood High School will return to normal seven period scheduling –– used before the pandemic –– or continue with block schedules. The decided schedule will likely depend on whether the high school will be in-person next year. 

“In early January we were completely virtual, and with no date to go back in person,” said Joe Patek, assistant principal. “Nobody thought that we would be full in-person this year, and so that same logic applies now. Who knows where we’ll be in September. Do the variants take hold and make things worse, or do the vaccination efforts pay off and do the case numbers stay really, really low? So that’s one thing that’s still being decided.”

Health and safety will be the key factors in determining the type of schedule the school will have next year. Block schedules, with only three or four longer classes each day, would reduce the number of close contacts a student has throughout a day compared to the normal seven period system. 

[With block scheduling], you can reduce the number of contacts and close contacts somebody has every day by almost half,

— Joe Patek, assistant principal

“[With block scheduling], you can reduce the number of contacts and close contacts somebody has every day by almost half,” Patek said.

Students’ preferences for the scheduling systems vary. Some students want standard scheduling to return next year. Adam O’Connor, junior, is one of them. 

“I just think that standard scheduling is better in general,” O’Connor said. “It’s difficult to focus and pay attention the whole time in long block classes, especially the ones I might not find as interesting. I just think that in normal classes, it’s easier to focus because… it moves a lot faster.”

While some students feel the standard schedule is more beneficial, others hold the opposite view. Rose Schnorr, freshman, hopes to continue with block scheduling next year. 

“Coming from the middle school where we also had block scheduling, I feel like I’m more used to it now. I feel like the idea of seven classes a day seems very overwhelming,” Schnorr said. 

Block scheduling allows students to spread their homework over longer periods, giving them more time to complete assignments. Many feel that this improves the quality of their work and allows them to learn better.

“Normal schedules would give you more homework, because you’ve got all these classes and then you’ve got homework every night. Whereas in block schedules, you’ve got less classes each day and you normally have to do the homework every other day, so you have more time to do it,” Schnorr said. 

Both standard and block scheduling systems have pros and cons, causing some students to feel torn between the two.

“I don’t have a preference, since I feel like [standard schedules] keeps things moving really well, and we’re definitely getting more educational hours in a normal standard scheduling,” said Louisa Fowler, sophomore. “I think doing something a shorter amount of time more times is better than doing something for a long time. It’s like practicing your instrument. I also love block scheduling because you only get to have every class every other day and then there’s less homework.”

With block schedules, students only see teachers twice a week. Some students feel that this takes away from their ability to get help on assignments and form certain connections with their teachers. 

[In a block schedule] I feel like I haven’t been able to connect with my teachers as much,

— Adam O'Connor

“In my past experience [during] my first two years of high school, I did really well,” O’Connor said. “I’m still doing fine, but it’s definitely a lot more stressful and less enjoyable. I feel like I haven’t been able to connect with my teachers as much… Especially as a junior, asking for letters of recommendation was kind of difficult, just because I don’t know any teachers at like a deeper level.”

Many classes work differently in block and standard scheduling, especially those that require full student attention. While longer class periods provide more time for interactive activities such as science labs or games in physical education classes, some students feel the benefit depends on the course content and subject.

“I feel like science is a little easier to stay engaged in, especially if we are doing labs or something like that. So, it kind of just depends on the class and its structure,” Fowler said. 

There have been various proposals to divide fourth hour classes into shorter periods that meet everyday. However, Patek doesn’t think that this option will be administered at all next year. 

“The feedback we got from that option is that most of the staff don’t want a fourth hour split, so I would be really surprised if that’s the schedule it ends up being,” Patek said. 

Other schools in the North Shore area have already had their decision on schedules finalized. For example, Nicolet High School will continue to use block scheduling, whereas Whitefish Bay High Schoolwill return to standard schedules. Both schools are returning five days a week.

“One thing that I think is going to be very pivotal is a consistent schedule for next year,” Patek said. “[The goal is] once we have that schedule, we’re gonna stay with that schedule for the length of next year, no matter what that schedule is.”