The 2019-2020 school year kicked off with many major changes, and more are on the way. Some students are calling this year the “Year of Change.”
Major changes that have already occurred include the rotating schedule, Community Block, and new lunch options. In general, students have mixed opinions on these changes, some liking them while others are taking time to get used to them.
In previous years, students attended classes in the same order. Days would always start with A block and end with D block. This year’s new schedule rotates. The first class of the day moves down to the last class the next day, and the other classes move up one block. A-B-C-D becomes B-C-D-A.
The main idea behind the rotating schedule is to help students academically by balancing the class time for each period. Mr. David Pfundstein, Dean of Student Life and Leadership, said, “The rotating schedule helps students have similar levels of focus in each class.” Gone are the days when attention for D block could be compromised due to exhaustion or dismissal anticipation.
Many students and teachers have already benefited from this scheduling change, but it is taking some time for some students to get used to it. Jeff Li (‘20) said, “I think it is confusing because I am so used to having the same class in the fixed block.”
Ms. Jessica Simonetta, Instructor in Science, said, “I am still getting used to the new schedule. I like having students at different times of the day.”
Mr. Pfundstein also talked about another benefit of the rotating schedule which is that “students who play sports or do other activities that might have early dismissals, the rotating schedule makes sure that they don’t miss the same class every time.”
Clinton Zupanc (‘21) agreed. He said, “I think the new schedule is beneficial for people who do sports.”
Another reason for the rotating schedule is that students may learn better at different times. This means that teachers get to have students when they learn their best. This helps students focus during all their classes, especially with the addition of Community Block which can improve their Gilmour experience.
Community Block is a 90 minute free period for students in grades 7-12. It occurs right after the first two classes of the day. It serves as a time period for lunch, club meetings, gives students the opportunity to meet with teachers, time for field trips and experiences outside of the Academy, and more.
Mr. Pfundstein said, “Community block enables students to get more involved with clubs because in the previous years, we felt like students were not involved in clubs after school due to athletic events and other activities.”
Community block benefits students’ academics by providing time for experiential learning opportunities through Catalyst or Vector programs. Mr. Pfundstein said, “Community block also allows the school to invite guest speakers and host other academic events. Also, class field trips can take place without having students missing other classes.”
Community block also helps students to feel less stressed out about school and saves time for busy students. Students could use it as a study hall or time to get academic help from teachers. And, instead of having a fixed schedule to eat lunch, students could manage their time themselves, and choose different locations to eat or the “to-go” option.
Mrs. Melissa Hamburg, Instructor in English, enjoys Community Block because of “the freedom it affords kids to become involved in clubs and activities that conflicted with sports or after school activities in previous years. It also is a nice break where kids and teachers can foster relationships with others during the school day.”
Many students agree that Community Block has been an enjoyable experience. Desiree Smith (‘22) said, “Community Block allows us to be involved in clubs and be more social. It is also a nice break.”
Students have used Community Block for many different purposes. Many club leaders have noticed that participation in their club has increased from previous years. Meghan Bhanoo (‘22) said, “I think it has helped increase member participation. For clubs, it is much easier to do different activities because you don’t have to stay after school. I can do more clubs thanks to Community Block.”
Other students use Community Block for many other intended purposes. From study hall to experiential learning, students have the opportunity to decide what to do during their free time.
Room for Improvement:
Even though Community Block has been an overall positive experience, improvements can be made. Mr. Pfundstein noted some concern that students could use Community Block as a 90 minute lunch period instead of using it for the many opportunities it offers. Also, many students feel overwhelmed with all the clubs meeting at the same time as well as other activities. Community Block requires a lot of responsibility from students. Teachers want students to clean up after themselves, stay in dress code, and use their time wisely.
The rotating schedule and Community Block are designed to benefit students. Students and faculty appear to be finding the best ways to adjust and take advantage of these changes.