Block schedule replaces all bands meet schedule

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The block schedule has re-entered the halls of Townsend Harris after six school years. Rather than going through all nine 42-minute bands everyday, students, teachers, and staff members now experience eight 50-minute bands from Monday to Thursday and four 50-minute bands (1-4) every Friday.

Differing from last year, the block schedule drops either band one, two, three, or four every day from Monday through Thursday. The logic behind skipping order, however, is not so obvious to all students. “I have no clue as to why, but for some reason on Tuesdays, the second day of the week, we don’t have third band. Then on Wednesdays, we have second off,” senior Matthew Cabrera explained. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. Follow the pattern of first off on Mondays, second on Tuesdays, third on Wednesdays, and fourth on Thursdays.”

According to Assistant Principal Veronica York, there is a method to the madness. “Because humanities classes at Queens College alternate days and are blocked for two periods, we have to be careful about the order that classes drop in the mornings,” she said. “Seniors who are programmed for Monday/Wednesday classes might miss their Townsend Harris classes if we don’t drop classes in a specific order.”

As a result of the dropped bands, teachers and students have found themselves amidst confusion regarding which classes meet on a given day. Mathematics teacher Sarah Liu explained, “The first Monday morning, I noticed how many students went to the wrong class because when I went to my class, I saw students running out to go to other classes.” Regardless, she remains hopeful that everything will become easier with time. “I can see that some students are also struggling with missing periods, but hopefully time will help us get more used to it.”
Despite the need for students and teachers alike to become accustomed to the new schedule, modern language teacher Christian Castillo feels that the block schedule has definitive benefits. “The idea that classes are a little longer is helpful for me,” Mr. Castillo said. “Especially for my AP courses, I can finish one topic instead of cutting the class in two.”

Another feature that the block schedule produces is an early dismissal at 11:30 AM every Friday after bands 1-4, followed by an optional lunch period until 12:50 PM. During this time, teachers gather for meetings. Modern language teacher Paola Sierra explained, “On Fridays, there’s a lot of teacher time for planning, which we didn’t really have before. While it felt more rushed last year, now it doesn’t feel rushed. I can talk to everybody and finish my work.”

While teachers stay behind for meetings, students have freedom to choose how they spend the remainder of their Fridays, seemingly benefiting them greatly. “With all the work and commitments that we students have inside and outside of school, it’s truly hard to find time to relax and simply hang out with people who are important to you,” said junior Kailey Van. “But the half days have given me an opportunity to enjoy life even in the midst of all that is happening at school.”

Senior Julia Dolega added, “Even if students have a club or a sport that doesn’t start until 1:00, they can always do some homework before then and free up their weekend or make their homework load a little lighter.”

In contrast, some of the Townsend Harris staff members do not face the same pleasantries from the early dismissal. Staff member Paul Sforza commented, “It was confusing in the beginning as to how the Fridays were going to work, in terms of lunch bands and when we’d have the cafeteria for practicing SING. It makes my day a little more complicated.” Despite the obstacles, however, Mr. Sforza said, “I’m getting used to it.”

In exchange for this early dismissal, class durations have increased, causing the administration to begin zero band at 7:15 AM and first band at 8:00 AM, while they used to start at 7:30 AM and 8:10 AM, respectively. “The only real problem I have with the new schedule is the longer bands, but that’s the sacrifice we have to make for it to work,” explained junior James Hopkins. “Those extra 5-8 minutes feel like an eternity, but I think that as we get more acclimated to it it’ll go back to normal.” According to Kailey, though, “The half day at the end of the week is worth the extra 8 minutes of class.”
As the difficulties surrounding the block schedule lessen, members of the school community are ultimately expressing their approval of this change. Matthew commented on the environment it creates, saying, “I’ve got to say I like this more. I prefer having classes four days a week rather than 5; it really does kill the monotony of last year where every single day was exactly the same.”