CRANFORD - In September 2017, Cranford High School instituted block scheduling for the first time as a way to manage students’ stress wrought by schoolwork and increase daily productivity in the classroom.
However, the idea of bringing this novel form of scheduling through the doors of CHS was born nearly a decade ago behind the desk of the then English Supervisor and teacher, Dr. Barbara Carroll, who is now the Assistant Principal for Academic Affairs. Carroll noticed how students were exhausted and stressed after having the same classes and accompanying workload every day. She was also noticing how other schools had implemented block scheduling, and this idea seemed attractive to her for Cranford High School.
Carroll realized that having an eight-class day was tedious and the routine of the same class times reduced creativity for all parties concerned. To get the block scheduling ball rolling, Carroll said, “I formed a small committee of people maybe seven years ago… and we just started talking. It began to take a little bit of form… and I presented it to the board as an idea to reduce students’ stress. Really, that was my main motivator for it.”
After years of research and visiting model schools that had block scheduling, Carroll and her colleagues devised the current scheduling plan, which includes six out of eight periods each day, on a four-day rotation. After each day, the first class of the day and the first class after lunch would be dropped, and the previously dropped class would replace it at the end of the morning or afternoon.
Carroll said she viewed this plan “for both teachers and students only as a win.” She explained, “Teachers will have more time. They won’t have to have the same class every day.”
And for the most part, out of 70 students anonymously surveyed, students agreed with Carroll that block scheduling is a definite win. Several students wrote that they loved having more time for homework assignments as a result of not meeting with each class every day or just having a break from a repetitive and challenging schedule. Additionally, several students said they enjoy the longer lunch block as they utilize it to see teachers or attend club meetings.
However, while Carroll was certain from the start this plan was the best option, some students have complaints after familiarizing themselves with block scheduling.
Though most students enjoy the lunch block, out of the nearly 70 students surveyed, about 30% felt some sort of disquiet aroused in regards to the lunch. They felt that, in some form or another, the alleged “hour” lunch is a misnomer. One student said, “Lunch isn’t actually a full 55 minutes due to the walk to lockers and classes.”
The top concern related to lunch according to the students is scheduling lab during it, which is an extended science period that occurs when science falls next to lunch on students’ schedules. While in the old schedule it took out of gym time, it now dips into 30 minutes of lunch. One student said, “It makes it difficult to take tests, see teachers, or attend clubs.” These three opportunities were seen as exciting added features with block scheduling, but because of the shortened lunch, students’ feel this is hindered by lab. Other students noted that when buying lunch on lab days, they have almost no time to eat because the lunch line takes about 15-20 minutes.
Despite these drawbacks, Carroll explained her reasoning for moving lab into lunch. “When lab pulled out of gym, that was a scheduling nightmare. Gym classes would be really large or small. It academically didn’t work well.” Carroll also noted that all of the school models for block scheduling took lab out of lunch time. The board that developed this program ultimately believed that having this form of lab was the best for students and staff.
While some students expressed aversions towards the features of block scheduling, the majority ruled in support of the feature that Dr. Carroll built from the ground up for the high school. It was her hope that lead to the success of block scheduling, and her hope to make Cranford High School a productive environment that could foster creativity and excellence.