High school proposes switch to eight-period block schedule

Winters High School (Express file photo)

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At its March 2 meeting, the Winters Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees heard a proposal by Winters High School staff and Principal John Barsotti to shift the high school’s schedule from a seven-period model to an AB eight-period model.

Barsotti explained that an AB eight-period model would extend the block period for classes to all five days of the week, which is one more day from the current schedule model that only hosts block periods four days a week.

“For comparison,” Barsotti said, “our current schedule is a seven-period schedule that has students and teachers in 50-minute periods on Mondays, and block periods the rest of the week — four blocks on Tuesdays, three blocks on Wednesdays, four blocks on Thursdays, and three blocks on Fridays, with an additional Explore (class) block added every other Friday.”

The proposal would eliminate the current Monday model where WHS students attend all of their classes for a 50-minute period each.

“A proposed eight-period schedule has block periods each day — four blocks one day followed by four blocks the next day, with an additional explore block added every other Friday. (The) start and end times are identical in both schedules,” Barsotti said. “The proposed new schedule also directly aligns with our three district goals: college and career readiness, fostering conditions of learning…and creating a safe and welcoming learning environment that motivates and supports the social and emotional wellbeing of all students while heightening connectedness and student engagement.”

WHS agriculture teachers Donnie Whitworth and Kayla Mederos further detailed the AB portion of the new schedule, where students would alternate their block of classes each day with their A-Day schedule and their B-Day schedule. Speaking to the proposed schedule, Whitworth explained “Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays would have the longest blocks. Wednesdays would be minimum day early release with staff development, and then every other Friday would also have the same schedule” with alternating Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and the Explore blocks every week. 

This system also allows students who don’t need intervention to work on extracurricular activities and increases the amount of time staff can dedicate to subjects like social-emotional learning and college and career exploration.

Teacher and Senior Capstone Coordinator Andrea Hurst said the benefits an eight-period day would have for both the Capstone Projects and 12th-grade Explore curriculum, would increase the time between advisors and students as well as provide new opportunities for seniors. Hurst also presented support from parents and students about the potential change. 

Teachers Polita Gonzales and Matt Baker also noted that this AB system would decrease the amount of homework each student has per night, gives teachers and students more time for group learning and individual student support, and overall decreases stress on students.  

Athletic Director and teacher Daniel Ward said the proposed system would be of benefit to student-athletes, who currently have to spend a lot of time out of class during certain sports seasons. With the proposed model, the alternate block schedules and release times spread out the classes that will be missed. 

Teacher Jim Stark provided Trustees with research and data on eight-period block schedules from “dozens of studies, it’s been looked at from every angle, every permutation” including decreases in staff and student stress, better student grades, increases in student performance on standardized tests, and positive perceptions from teachers and students.

Barsotti concluded this change will be revenue neutral and will require no increases in staff or costs not already present in the seven-period model.

According to Barsotti, a full block schedule provides an opportunity to offer a variety of lesson activities during block instruction. The proposed eight-period schedule “is student-centered, focusing on students’ wants and needs, and has academic, emotional, and cognitive benefits for students directly aligns with our three district goals and has a high level of support from the people tasked with ensuring this change is successful for the benefit of all students.”

Trustees voiced their support for the presentation.

Superintendent Rody Boonchuoy noted to Trustees that changes like this aren’t always received positively by school districts, and that “the biggest issue that can undermine and potentially sink a shift like this is the depth of involvement and interest of the staff to do this work, and what you can see here is our staff is driving this…so this is phenomenal, this is true distributive leadership that our staff is leading the way.”

Trustees are expected to take action on the item at the March 16 Board of Trustees meeting.

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