Reasons Behind the Switch to Block Days

By J1 reporter Elizabeth Monzu

Confusion describes what lots of school days were like before the switch to four classes a day, or block days. Was it a special schedule? Was it a Mass day? Was the first class A, B, C, E, or D?

These were the questions that were heard in the halls with the former schedule, because there were so many different special schedules and each day started with a different class. This confusion led to the decision to simplify the schedule by having four classes a day and the beginning of the day start with either block A or block E.

The schedules from the previous set up of school days and special schedules were much more confusing than the new block day arrangement. Via the Marian website.

“We started the conversation before COVID about changing to all block days,” academic vice principal Mrs. Jennifer Christen said. “However, we were worried about getting through all the curriculum. We didn’t want teachers lecturing for the whole 90 minutes.”

The last schedule caused lots of distress and when students had their senior lunches, they overwhelmingly told the principal, Mrs. Susie Sullivan, to switch to all block days. The student body also answers questions in a Cognia survey every two years to evaluate what is going well at Marian or what could be better. “The main complaint was the schedule,” Sullivan said. 

Through all this, the decision was moved forward due to COVID in March. “When trying to figure out a schedule for zoom, we felt that doing all eight classes would be difficult,” Christen said. “Everyone would have to log on to zoom, then the teachers would have to take attendance, and by that time there would be less time for learning. The block scheduling over zoom really worked.”

As said before, the decision also resulted from student input. In the last schedule, there were two block days on Wednesday and Thursday. Those days seemed to be more laid back and Christen said the students didn’t seem as stressed. Now that Marian began all block days, the students have had good feedback about the new schedule. “The days are definitely less confusing because there aren’t as many classes in a day,” junior Grayce Olsen said. 

“With this new schedule there is less movement around the building. The mood of the building is slower, calmer. We will keep this block schedule for the future,” Sullivan said.

Sophomore Matilda Lang elaborated on the switch saying, “When [Marian] mentioned the switch to all block days I was kind of mad, but now that we have it, I really like it. The block days help with homework and to spread things out.”

Many may not realize it, but there were obstacles behind the scenes that delayed the switch to block days. Sullivan had always wanted to change to block days since she became principal in the fall of 2015, but the scheduling committee rejected plans to switch to all block days. “I last talked to the scheduling committee in January, and they still wanted to keep the schedule. In March when COVID hit, I took advantage of the need for a new plan and modified the schedule to all days being four classes a day,” Sullivan said.

Miss Megan Han was a part of the scheduling committee at the time of the change. The scheduling committee gets schedules from Mrs. Sullivan to review. “We sometimes check the daily schedule as well. Occasionally, we are asked to put together special schedules,” Han said.

Han also had a different perspective on block scheduling than some of the students and Sullivan. She was wary and unsure of the switch. “As a math teacher, I thought it would be a bit harder to teach classes with the all block schedule. Math takes a lot of comprehension, and with block days, I have to get through two lessons a day. Then, students can’t comprehend as much because it’s all together,” Han said.

The updated schedule is less busy than the two above pictures. Via the Marian website.

As well as the block day switch, there have been other, more subtle alterations. Instead of special schedules, there are now CAB blocks, or Crusader activity blocks. These are once a week, and can be utilized for Masses, study halls, programming, or other important activities the administration puts together. “CAB blocks help so we can have special events each month and not have to rotate the schedule every time. They alleviate the need for a lot of special schedules,” Sullivan said.

As for student feedback, that, too, was optimistic. “I think CAB blocks are a good idea. I like when it is a study hall. I also like that the schedule isn’t too messed up because it goes with late starts,” Lang said.

Speaking of late starts, those also got modified. A few years ago, the late starts, and associated Spirit Shirt days, used to be on Wednesdays, but Sullivan changed them to Fridays at the start of the 2017-18 school year. This year they got moved back to Wednesdays. It was a way of balancing the schedule, because of the imposition of CAB blocks. If late starts were Fridays, then that means the same classes, either A days or E days would already get shorter classes since the late starts and CAB blocks would always be separated. The Wednesday late starts were a way of breaking up the week.

Lang agreed about the break in the week, but liked another part of Friday’s late starts. “I think it is kind of nice having late-start days in the middle of the week. It is a break in the week, but it did make Fridays go faster,” Lang said.

Recently there have been many changes happening at Marian. Some changes the community hopes won’t continue throughout the years, like the need to sanitize desks at the start and end of every class and wearing face shields in the halls. However, Sullivan said she hopes this schedule change will last far into the future.

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