JULIA NIX '24
SUA Students: Mixed Thoughts on Block Schedule
As the first semester of 2022 is coming to a close, I wanted to get a consensus on the students’ thoughts on SUA’s unique block schedule. To provide a brief description of the schedule, four classes are taken within the first semester and then switch for the second. Each of the four classes are taken every day and are 80 minutes long. Freshmen typically have two year-long classes that are 40 minutes each, which are called skinnies; skinnies are usually a language and math class.
I sent out a survey asking the students of all grades on their thoughts about SUA’s schedule, and the feedback was mostly positive. However, many students mentioned some caveats and limitations. Two defining aspects of the schedule were explored which were the 80-minute bells and the switching of classes at the end of the semester.
End-of-Semester Class Switches
Using the answers gathered from the survey, a majority of the students like switching classes, saying that this schedule “allows you to focus on only a few classes at a time”. It also allows for a “deeper understanding of the class than you would if it was over a year.” The classes switching each semester has also allowed people to have a “new start with new teachers” and “meet new people.” On the other hand, switching classes does have some negatives because some people “make new friends in [their] classes and then have to leave” after the first semester. On the academic side of that, some mentioned that they “only have half a year to learn a year's worth of information” and feel overwhelmed. For people taking AP classes, many “dislike when AP classes fall in the first semester, and don't take the exam until the end of the following semester.” Also, for people taking the ACT, people find it a struggle when “[they] have math second semester and [they’re] trying to take the ACT first semester.” This is a big source of stress for some people who fear getting behind on standardized testing. Many students find the switch-up of classes beneficial, but also acknowledge some of the hindrances it may have on other nuances in their lives.
A positive of the 80-minute bells is that it “feels like you can get more done in one 80 minute bell than two 40 minute bells.” Along with that, students can “spend 80 minutes in the electives that [they] enjoy.” Besides that, the general consensus in the survey was that the 80 minute bells are “too long” and it can sometimes be “hard to stay focused.” Many feel that “there is a mental drain placed on students forced to absorb information 80 minutes at a time, and feel many teachers overload students on homework as a result of these long bells.”
Changes Wanted in the Schedule
While many students feel like the schedule is perfect the way it is, some offered some ways they feel that the schedule could be improved. Some of these included shorter bells, a longer fifth bell to be utilized as a study hall, and ways to make it easier to take desired classes, especially APs. A student even stated a detailed way in which the schedule could be modified, stating that they “feel like a shorter block schedule with more classes would be better conducive for student information retention.” The student also said that “if the administration feels strongly about these longer bells,” they should be “rotated every other day so [students] can actually have two days to complete two days worth of homework.” She feels that the “current schedule is wildly unbalanced in terms of time constraints placed on students,” which is reflective of the thoughts of others who took the survey.
The way a schedule is structured can make or break a student’s experience with the school. As it stands right now, it appears that the general block schedule is appreciated among the majority of students. However, there is always room for improvement within systems, especially when it comes to education and the greater good for the students. Even some minor tweaking and adjustments can help Saint Ursula be an even more beneficial environment set up for complete success among those who aim to engross themselves in every opportunity they want to take advantage of during their time at SUA.