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Middletown Unveils Block Scheduling in Township High Schools

Four, 80-minute classes per day are expected to start this fall.

Students in Middletown high schools will have more time but less classes per day with the new block-scheduling format.

Middletown High School North Principal Patricia Vari-Cartier and Middletown High School South Principal Patrick Rinella presented a Power Point detailing block scheduling to more than 60 parents and students gathered in the Middletown High School North Library.

“We truly believe that we have developed a schedule that is in your child’s best educational, social and emotional well-being,” said Superintendent of Schools William George. “It addresses all of that and we are firmly planning in the 21st century with a steady hold that can improve teaching and learning and that is the directional we are looking to head in.”

The block scheduling would increase class time from 48 minutes to 80 minutes and reduce the amount of class students would take in a day to four classes a day and a one 26 minute lunch period and a 26-minute advisory period on an alternating A day and B day schedule.

The school day will be divided into five blocks.  Each block last about 80 minutes with the exception of Block 3 which would last about 52 minutes.  During this third block, students would have a 26-minute lunch and a 26-minute advisory period.

The first block would begin at 7:36 a.m. and the last block would end at 2:13 p.m., ending the school day. 

“The block scheduling affords our students so much more opportunity,” Principal of Middletown High School South Patrick Rinella.

Benefits of the block scheduling include lower class sizes in core classes averaging in the teens and students can take an additional class, Rinella said.  Students will also have an opportunity to attend advisory tutorial sessions, which would be included in the students’ daily schedule.

Rinella said during this advisory period students would be able to attend extra help periods as well as participate in club activities. Teachers will post their office hours on the school's web page, Rinella said.

Juniors and seniors will have lunch first at 10:26 a.m. then would transition into a room where they will have the ability to take advantage of extra help and club activities.

While freshmen and sophomores will have the second lunch and have an advisory session the first weeks of school then they will also have the ability to take advantage of extra help and club activities.

During this period, the gym will not be available for students to work out. Rather lunch will be served in the auxiliary gym as well as the cafeteria. 

One parent raised a concern about students eating in the same space where wrestlers practice and physical education classes take place and the sanitation procedures that will take place in order to provide a safe, clean atmosphere for students to eat.

Superintendent of Schools William George said custodial supervisors will set up and clean the area in addition to students taking “responsibility for their area”.

Attendance policies have also changed. With the previous policy, students who had more than 16 unexcused absences in a full-year course did not receive credit.  

Students missing more than 10 unexcused absences in a full-year course will not receive credit for the course. This does not mean students who are absent for 10 days will not receive credit.

For a student to receive for a full-year A-day course, a student will have to have less than 10 unexcused absences.

At eight absences, parents would receive a notice home notifying them that their student has missed these days. A student would be able to appear in front of the Attendance Review Committee and review their absences. Only absences due to religious observances will be excused.

The graduation requirements have also changed because students will able to take additional credits with block scheduling                                                              

The class of 2013 will need to complete 125 credits to graduate; class of 2014 will need 130 credits to graduate; class of 2015 will need 135 credits to graduate; and the class of 2016 and beyond will need 140 credits to graduate.

The block schedules will be posted on August 24 on the Parent Portal in PowerSchool. Parents who have opted out of the Parent Portal will receive a paper copy of the schedule in the mail. 

NJarhead August 22, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Sounds like a solid plan. My only gripe as a parent/student would be the 10:36 lunch time. They should try to get all of the lunches in between 11 and 1, in my humble opinion. But I do like the scheduling. It'll give teachers the opportunity to give more of a complete daily lesson which benefits the students, plus it breaks up any monotony for the students.
JosephGhabourLaw August 22, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Moving high-school class periods, to be closer in length to college classes, is a simple but wise move. I admit that a 10:26 lunch is a bit odd, but that's almost certainly due to the physical limitations of the school itself.
NJarhead August 22, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Probably so regarding the lunch period, but I'd be curious to hear the reasoning none-the-less.
mhssalum August 22, 2012 at 03:56 PM
When I was a student at MHSS, I was scheduled for the first lunch for 3 straight years, which started at 10:17am.
NJarhead August 22, 2012 at 04:44 PM
And what did you think of that?
mhssalum August 22, 2012 at 08:06 PM
It was a bit early, but we survived. Since class started at 7:30am, I'd imagine we ate breakfast sometime between 6:15am and 6:45am, so a 10:30am lunch isn't too far fetched. Honestly, block scheduling imitates a college schedule better than the old 7 periods-a-day schedule, so I think it's a good thing.
KS August 23, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I understand that the 80 minute learning block more closely mirrors the length of a college class. However, in college, most students are not in back-to-back 80 minute blocks from 7:36 am to 2:13 pm. I'm sure every college is different, but my recollection is that there were many college days when my schedule had a free period here and there rather than sitting in consecutive 80 minute blocks for nearly 7 hours. In addition, although the concept of block scheduling may be a good one, have the high school teachers been given sufficient time and training to make the necessary changes to their lesson plans? After all, block scheduling is a new way of teaching (much more collaborative and project-focused) and that means that a teacher cannot simply combine two 40 minute lesson plans for use in an 80 minute class block. Rather, the lesson plans need to be entirely re-structured. To do that properly, it would have been best for the teaching staff to prepare for this huge change over a period of 9 months or so so that they could have planned for the additional project-based teaching. The bulk of the training seems to be taking place during the four days before the September 10 start of the school year, and it will not be enough time for the faculty to properly prepare. I'm very concerned that the very short lead time to roll this change out will yield a poor experience in the first year.
Chelsea Naso (Editor) August 23, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I moved my freshman year of high school, so I got to experience both 45 minute classes and 90 minute classes. By the time the class got settled and lesson caught momentum, the 45 minute classes seemed to be almost over. You also had additional passing time that cut away from class time. With the 90 minute classes, teachers often had a question or individual activity for students to start when they arrived and once everyone was in there seat, etc, we would go over it. They typically changed the activity/lesson about every 30 minutes to keep the class flowing and the students attentive. This way it wasn't just some 90 minute lecture where everyone tuned out halfway through. As a student athlete, I also appreciated being able to focus on homework for only four classes each night instead of eight. I remember having early lunch some years, but it was never a problem. Most teachers didn't mind if you had a snack that was not messy or loud or somehow caused a disturbance.
KS August 23, 2012 at 07:08 PM
In response to Katnypp's question about the scheduling of and extent of teacher training on transitioning to block, I believe they had professional days on Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15. However, some of that time had to be used for other activites such as grading final exams, inputting final grades to Power School and attending the high school graduation at Monmouth University. A portion of the training time in July and September was supposed to entail a train-the-trainer approach in which teachers and administrators who had visited schools which are already on a block schedule would share their observations with their colleagues about how block is supposed to work. As far as training in the summer months, the teachers' contract only runs from approximately September 1 to June 30, I believe, so they would not be contractually obligated to attend training sessions in July and August. Updating one's lesson plans in July and August to reflect the new block teaching approach would be at the discretion and initiative of the individual faculty member.
skizma September 04, 2012 at 10:49 AM
It works great. Less courses, more focus. You argument that college doesn't meet every day is true, however, college doesn't meet for 7 classes back to back every day. I don't see this as a mimicking of college. It is so simple, More efficient. Four classes affords you better focus on the classes. Only four courses worth of homework and studying. You start your homework in class and ask questions right there, rather than to no one at home. Simple calculation of time spent changing classes right there alone adds approx 15-20 minutes of class time. Changing classes 7 times a day is a waste of time. Then, set up time for each class is reduced by approx 30 minutes. Then, you get INTO something and can stay in it. Granted you can't linger too long, but, you can get into it and move into the next part of the lesson right then and connect it. Math especially. Science. You can relax and really really learn. It is the way to go and there is NO reason why every school isn't on the block schedule.
skizma September 04, 2012 at 10:55 AM
My daughter had lunch last year at 9:30 am. And our dumb highschool is still on the traditional scheduling. 7 classes, 7 lunches to get in and he ate at like 9:30 9:45 AM. She was NOT hungry to say the least. Now this year, she eats at 1 pm, and they get out at 2:30. Ridiculous. They start at 7:30 she eats at 1:15 or so. Ridiculous. And, gets 20 minutes to do so. WHO in the working world gets a 20 minute lunch? No one. It's atrocious at best. Block scheduling is a NO BRAINER and I have no respect for a school that doesn't make better use of it's time. How do you expect us, as consumers, to respect you, the school, if you can't set the example of good ideas, new ideas and good time management?

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