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Fifth block to be added because of overcrowding

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Starting next year, there will be five blocks in a day. Normal school hours will be extended until 3:30, and after-school activities (including sports) will start after that.

Essentially, all the change does is add a 45-minute block onto the end of the school day in which one class can be taught year-round. There will be some new schedule options, though. In addition to the current schedule (7:45-2:35), students may now choose from two other options.

The first new option is the 9:15-3:30 schedule. In this option, students will be able to complete seven credits a year: six in blocks two through four and one in block five. Only 24 credits are needed for an advanced diploma, so graduation is not a large issue with this schedule.

The second new option is the 7:35-3:30 schedule, which allows a maximum of nine credits to be taken. This option may not be the best, as principal Cynthia Prieto, who has been working on this idea with Dr. Kizner for about two years, explains.

“[Taking nine classes is] not necessarily recommended, especially if you’re taking intense classes,” Prieto said. “It is not physically possible to take nine AP’s.”

On the other hand, the 9:15-3:30 schedule is designed to provide convenience for students with other obligations outside of school such as work and family.

“Students who have jobs that go late at night can sleep in a little bit, get here by nine o’clock and go until 3:30,” Prieto said.

The change also helps to deal with class size (it’s a direct response to overcrowding) and schedule conflicts.

“By adding a fifth block, we are allowing a split of that full class to two reasonably sized classes, and now the possibility of you being able to fit one or the other is higher,” Prieto said. “By doing this, we can create some flexibility in the schedule.”

Which classes will actually be offered fifth block will depend on students’ registrations as counselors begin scheduling. Most likely, only five to ten of the most popular classes will be offered (English, math through algebra 2, Spanish, economics and personal finance). ELL classes may also be offered so that English language learners can get more exposure.

“Counselors are mentioning it as they register each student and basically taking a temperature on whether a fifth block is something that students would: one, be interested in, two, be able to do given activities and family obligations, three, willing to talk to their parents about,” Prieto said. “Once the registration is finished, we will know better what courses would fly.”

It’s not just the school day schedule that would have to change. After school activities will have to start after 3:30. That means if you are an athlete without a fifth block, you will essentially have a 45-minute study hall. Many sports already have a study hall, so an extension of this would not be a huge change.

Faculty and staff will be affected by this too. For one, longer operating hours means more support staff are needed. One counselor, clerical support person, nurse, custodian and librarian will “over-staff” – take on more hours and receive a pay increase of about one-eighth of their salary.

Some teachers will also have to over-staff, although no one will be forced to.

“We will make sure that everybody has the same amount of teaching and planning,” Prieto said. “We will make sure that [fifth block] is courses that have a lot of flexibility so as not to force a teacher [to teach a class].”

The process for finding fifth block teachers will go somewhat voluntarily.

“[I will say], I have this many kids for a fifth block math class, is anybody willing? Then the teachers can say, ‘Yeah, I would like it.’ The teachers can choose to do it as part of an eight hour day or as an over-staff,” Prieto said. “[An over-staff] is the same as a teacher nowadays giving up their planning period to teach another section.”

Both over-staff pay and added transportation costs will add to the cost of this response to overcrowding. There will have to be a new bus schedule to accommodate an expected 180-240 extra students who arrive to school at 9:15 and leave at 3:30. These routes are in addition to those that will run normally at 7:45 and 2:35.

How much the overall cost of this change will be remains to be seen, but along with more trailers and more teachers, costs associated with overcrowding are piling up. Prieto thinks the school’s resilience has made accommodating overcrowding easier.

“I am really grateful to the staff and students. They’ve been very flexible as we’ve had to make changes,” Prieto said. “We are realizing, ‘You know what, they will come and we need to teach them, so let’s make the absolute best of it.’”

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Fifth block to be added because of overcrowding