Shorter days, longer periods as North moves toward block schedule


Photo by Tessa Devine

On Monday night, the District 203 Board of Education heard an update to the Return-to-Learn plan that will radically alter the NNHS school day to a block schedule.

The transition to Stage 2 for high school will begin on Oct. 12. Some of the main changes include a switch to an 85-minute class period, adjusted school start and end times, and the return to the school building for select students. Block scheduling will start Oct. 19th.

“We are confident that our plans for Stage 2 and 3 are in alignment with state and local guidelines and what’s happening with many other districts in the area,” Superintendent Dan Bridges said during the school board meeting.

The plan was preceded by public comments that included passionate attacks by some community members on the district leadership’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Bridges later lamented what he called personal attacks and called for unity in the school district community. District administrators emphasized that safety precautions will be taken for students inside the building including masks, distance, disinfecting, careful monitoring of symptoms and contact tracing for students who test positive.

“One thing we are confident about is that we will have positive cases within our school community. We will need to work as a community to help mitigate the risk of the virus spreading,” Dr. Christine Igoe, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, said.

Students have learned from home since the start of the year in response to the COVID-19 risk in-person school poses. As high schools move into Stage 2, students who lack engagement, are failing to meet standards, are not attending classes at an acceptable level or who are taking performance based/hands-on classes will be the first to transition into the school buildings, Jayne Willard, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Instruction, said.

Students will eventually be allowed to choose an online-only option that will help them virtually participate in their classes without an adjustment of schedules. Classrooms will have additional or upgraded cameras and displays so that in-person and online students will be able to hear and see each other and the teacher during the livestreams. 

“The livestream technology is the backbone of our Stage 2 and Stage 3 learning models,” Willard said during the presentation.

Every Monday, students will follow the current eight-period late arrival schedule in a combination of asynchronous work and synchronous instruction that teachers may choose to invite students to. The Tuesday through Friday block schedule will have four classes per day, beginning at 7:35 A.M. and ending at 1:30 P.M. Passing periods will be reduced to five minutes.

Eventually, Stage 3 for high school will include 50% of in-person students in the classroom daily, using an A-day/B-day schedule. To move into this stage, metrics will be reviewed after six weeks in order to evaluate if they are favorable for the next transition.

There are various specifics of the schedule design that have still not been fully detailed, but the district is expected to move ahead with the next stages of its plan. 

“Our ability to move forward with our plans to Return-to-Learn… depends on a partnership that involves all of us, because that is what makes an exemplary school district,” Bridges said.