Schedule Change Q&A: What to Expect

By Dominic George ‘19

There have been many discussions going around campus regarding a scheduling change. After various discussions over the past three years among faculty and consulting program directors outside of school, the administration has decided to implement a block schedule at the beginning of the Fall Semester 2020.

This will be a change unfamiliar to everyone, as for 20 years Bellarmine has used the 7-period scheduling system. Two individuals who played a significant role in this scheduling change were Principal Luscher and Math Department Chair Mr. Barone, and both offered their thoughts and opinions regarding this ground-breaking news.

Bell Online: The period schedule has been long implemented. Why was this scheduling change made in the first place?

Principal Luscher: “We want to work around finding time for faculty and staff to collaborate… finding more balance between academics and mission-related experiences, and finding more balance in general between school and life and activities,” said Mrs. Luscher.

Bell Online: Currently our 7-period schedule seems to jam-pack everything together. Was this one of the factors which determined that changes needed to be made?

Mr: Barone: “Basically we’ve had the same schedule, the same container for a long time. Over the years we’ve added to that and we added a new period, and things have gotten busier and busier and other things have been squeezed out. So this is just an attempt to take a look at what we value as a school and to push some of the noise aside so that we create space. For example, [community time] is [going to] help provide our students opportunity to build community and faculty as well. And that’s what community time is all about,” Mr. Barone said.

Bell Online: When did the scheduling change process begin?

Principal Luscher: “As I was [officially] becoming principle, I heard from really every group on campus that our schedule was not working, for one reason or another…. We hired a consultant who came in, in the fall of this year, to evaluate our programs, looked at, massive amounts of data around what we do, and offer, and how we do it. And so she was here five days and left us with some recommendations, and she left us with three major modules and subcategories of those three major modules of schedule recommendations,” she said.

Bell Online: What was the next step taken after being left with these three major modules?

Principal Luscher: “I asked Mr. Barone to chair a committee of faculty members to take those recommendations and really determine, you know, what’s best for Bellarmine, to tailor it so that it wasn’t just coming from a consultant, but really fit what we needed in that work. Mr. Barone spoke with many faculty members, staff members, and program directors,” she said.

Mr. Barone also mentioned how important it was to look at schools who currently utilize the block schedule.

Mr. Barone: “We talked to other schools, we looked at what other schools were doing, best practices, what they liked, what they didn’t like. We had focus groups with students. We read as much research as we could to educate ourselves. We used all of that to kind of form the basis of the recommendations,” he said.

Bell Online: The first reaction by most students when they hear about a block schedule are the pains of sitting in class for up to 90 minutes at a time. How long will class periods be?

Principal Luscher: “Class periods will be 65 minutes long, so a slight addition in time. There will be four class meetings each day, and built into the day is what we’re calling community time, it’s 50 minutes, and in that community time (this is what we need to do some more work on) but our current thinking is that roughly twice a week, that would be tutorial time. So for 50 minutes you can go get help, you could work on maybe a study group, you could collaborate with peers on academic work, and then the other two days would be choice days, so that might be clubs or kind of things that students [want to] do,” she said.

Bell Online: Will community time be the only “free period” that students have?

Principal Luscher: “We’re adding an 8th period so that all students will absolutely have a free period. So even if you’re taking seven classes… currently you can take a seventh class that’s in art, fitness and health, or computer science. So even if you take one of those classes you would still have a free period. All students will at least have one free period and some will have two. And down the line we will look at, do we want to add any electives, relative to, whether it be student wellness… or enrichment courses to that seventh period, but not intense [as other classes]. But maybe you are doing [activities] that are enriching to you,” she said.

Bell Online: Earlier on, Mr. Barone mentioned a time in the day called community time. What does community time have to offer?

Principal Luscher: “Built into the day is what we’re calling community time, it’s 50 minutes, and in that community time (this is what we need to do some more work on)… that would be tutorial time. So for 50 minutes you can go get help, you could work on maybe a study group, you could collaborate with peers on academic work, and then the other two days would be choice days, so that might be clubs or kind of things that students [want to] do,” she said.

Bell Online: How will the lunchtime period be affected by the adjustments of the block schedule?

Principal Luscher: “Lunch would be 30 minutes, and it would truly be a lunch period. So we all stop what we are doing because currently we all race to event and activity meetings… Instead, lunch is truly lunch. You’re [going to] stop and take a little breather, engage with one another, eat, and slow down, faculty, students, staff members alike so we’re excited by that possibility because that’s a big shift because currently we squeeze clubs into that time period and so people are eating and meeting, doing activities all at the same time,” she said.

Bell Online: With all this space in the schedule, will this mean that school days start earlier and end later?

Principal Luscher: “Another thing that I really appreciated about the committee’s work was that they looked at [how] pediatricians recommend that schools don’t start earlier than 8:30, the recommendation based on teenagers and their sleep patterns. So we will start at 8:25 is currently our thinking around that. We got as close we could to 8:30 but a little later start time, each day of the week. And we will get out at 2:35, because there’s also a lot of science that shows that period of time from 2-3 is not our prime time in terms of thinking and learning,” Mrs. Luscher said.

Bell Online: Will adjustments be made the block schedule once the 2020-2021 school year begins?

Principal Luscher: “I’m open to feedback, I’m aware of some of the concern around free time… and I really want to partner specifically with ASB because I do feel that’s our student government body here on campus, and just making sure there really is concern with what students are feeling. I want to be in dialogue with them and include them in the planning of community time, and I know that’s absolutely our plan is to have student voices in that development of community time so that they’re excited about it as well… I am open to student feedback moving forward so that it works for students and faculty alike.”