FREEHOLD – After years of planning and preparation, the Freehold Regional School District will be switching over to block scheduling for students in each high school within the district.
According to Rebecca Policastro, Communications and District Projects Coordinator, “the decision to move to a block schedule was made to align with the district’s mission that provides students with increased time for modern learning experiences.”
The biggest change that comes with the block scheduling is that students will be attending only five periods a day rather than the current seven. Students will take seven classes each year on a seven day rotation where each class meets five out of seven days.
Policastro explained that “School will still only meet 5 days a week, but the 7 day cycle is used to accommodate the rotation of the 7 classes students take during a semester.”
Students will take five of their seven classes each day, with two classes being “dropped,” according to Policastro. These dropped classes will be taken on another day while other classes are dropped in exchange.
The current schedule that students work with consists of seven 47-minute classes per day and a 28-minute lunch. With the new schedule, students will have five 67-minute classes per day and a 35-minute lunch.
Block scheduling claims various benefits for both the students and staff.
According to the district, longer periods allow for greater depth of instruction. “This increases the opportunity for teachers to utilize differentiated and varied teaching strategies (e.g. cooperative learning, inquiry-based lessons, simulations), as well as student-centered learning experiences and instructional approaches,” it stated in the district’s FAQ document.
Because the classes meet at different times during the day, block scheduling can also improve students’ focus. “Students will not have a particular class the same time every day; this is helpful for students who miss class time at the end of the day for athletic events and/or students who struggle to focus first thing in the morning,” stated the FAQ.
This concept also supports the idea that focusing on only five classes a day, as opposed to seven, helps increase students’ attention and focus as they have less to prepare for each day.
Students are not the only ones who should see the benefits of the new schedule change, but the teachers as well. Teachers will get more instructional time and preparation time.
Another noteworthy facet of the schedule is that is lengthens the lunch period. By having one, collective lunch period for all students, they are able to spend time with friends and eat at the same time.
According to the district, various locations will be designated in each school for students to eat lunch and staff will be assigned to supervise the designated areas where students eat.
Policastro noted that the schedule is made up of four classes that rotate through three blocks before lunch (“AM”) and three classes that rotate through two blocks after lunch (“PM”).
For the earlier schools – Freehold, Howell and Manalapan – the “AM” blocks will run from 7:30 to 11:01 a.m. and the “PM” blocks, from 11:47 a.m. to 2:06 p.m.
For the later schools – Colts Neck, Freehold Township and Marlboro – “AM” blocks will run from 8:24 to 11:55 a.m. and “PM” blocks, from 12:41 to 3 p.m.
“With the classes rotating, students will have the opportunity to interact with their teachers and class content at different times of the day,” said Policastro.
Half days on the block schedule will consist of five 50-minute periods with no lunch. Partial days or delayed openings will consist of five 50-minute periods and a 41 minute lunch.
According to the district, the process of implementing block scheduling has been an ongoing project since 2015, that began with a period of “exploration” from 2015-2016. During this time, district staff made visits to other districts that have already implemented the block schedule to see how it works.
“District administrators did visit other schools that utilize block scheduling,” said Policastro. “The feedback from those districts was very positive.”
Following this stage, came planning and professional development during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years.
After nearly three years of study, the district intends to implement the new schedule for the 2018-2019 school year.
According to Policastro, student representatives’ feedback demonstrated that they are “excited about the opportunities available through the new schedule.”