What Parents Need to Know About Our High School Class Schedule
To block or not to block? That is the question of every high school administrator in charge of making schedules! High schools in Louisville take different approaches to this, so in choosing a high school, it’s important to know what it all means in order to evaluate what will work best for your student.
Here at the High School, we have a rotating modified block schedule. “Rotating” means that Monday through Friday, the classes are in a different order each day. Students find certain times of the day more challenging (some dislike mornings, others feel tired after lunch, etc.). When a challenging class always occurs during one of those difficult times for a student (e.g., a student who hates mornings and struggles with writing has English every morning first period), it can create an unpleasant dynamic and make success in that class more difficult. Rotating the classes around each day is helpful for both the student and the teacher. In addition, at St. Francis, rotating our classes periodically leads to the cherished “double lunch”: when students have a free period connected to lunchtime, they get an extra-long lunch period. Copious time is spent on this rotation each summer to balance classes and ensure an equal rotation of classes throughout the day, as well as provide as much equality of double lunch periods as possible!
As for the “modified block,” our schedule is half block and half traditional. Full block schedules are typically those where half of a student’s classes meet one day and the other half the next day, and then back to the first group, and so on. Schools with full block schedules generally have classes that are around 90 minutes long, with each class meeting two to three times per week. Schools with traditional schedules, on the other hand, have every class meet every day, for usually around 40-45 minutes. Both schedules have pros and cons. Blocks provide longer periods with concentrated time that is particularly valuable for science lab experiments, history essay tests, art classes, etc. Traditional schedules are generally preferable for math and world language, subjects where repetition and daily exposure are key. Some students find block classes to be too long, as they get tired or bored and have difficulty paying attention to one topic for that long (and a break in the middle simply loses class time). However, shorter traditional classes don’t always provide enough time for some activities, like the aforementioned labs and tests.
At St. Francis, our rotating modified block schedule means students have all their classes in 45-minutes periods on Mondays and Fridays. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, we have 65-minute classes and each class meets two of the three days. So in a given five-day week, each student has each class four times — for two 45-minute periods and two 65-minute periods. This allows high school teachers at St. Francis to see their students in class every day but one and to enjoy flexibility in planning and pedagogy because they can tailor activities to the amount of time in a given day, which ultimately allows us to serve the students in an efficient and effective way. We believe that our rotating modified block schedule (click here to view our 2020-21 High School Rotation) combines the best of both worlds!
Since we’re on the topic of schedules, here are some other key aspects of ours:
Every Thursday, we have a Projects period (similar to Fridays at our Goshen Campus). Projects are designed around interesting, enriching topics and provide the opportunity for students to learn about something different and to bond across grade levels. Options include two elective courses, Playwriting (taught by personnel from Actors Theatre) and Jazz Ensemble, and lots of non-class options like “Baking Cookies,” “Game Design and Building,” “3-D Design” (in the Workshop, our MakerSpace), “Hook & Harry” (crocheting and watching Harry Potter movies), “Dead Poets’ Slam,” “Poker,” and more.
Four days per week (all but Friday), we offer Flex times during which the whole school is free. This provides time for all-school assemblies/programming, club meetings, students seeing teachers for help, grade-level meetings, etc.
Finally, students have a free period most days, which is designed to help them begin cultivating the time management skills they will need in college when they have vast expanses of time outside of their classes. During free periods, students can choose to study, meet with a teacher who is also free, sign out to the Main Library right across the street or to eat with a friend, play ping-pong or pool in our Commons Room, or just relax and hang out with friends. The idea is to couple privilege with responsibility and give students a small taste of how to manage their time well, a skill they’ll really need in just a few years.
Our current schedule was created several years ago and has been modified slightly as we’ve lived with it. In creating it, we spent a great deal of time researching schedules from Independent Schools all over the country, and then — as we generally do at St. Francis — a committee of teachers and administrators analyzed that collective wisdom and assessed our own needs to create this new schedule. As always, with any major change, we also got student input, this time by running a trial of the new schedule the year before we adopted it in full. This allowed us to ultimately embrace a schedule that both teachers and students believe works best for our School and for teenagers in general.
Note: During the current Coronavirus pandemic, there have been some adjustments to the modified block schedule. The information above reflects the normal offerings in a regular school year.