ETHS to implement block schedule, eliminate finals beginning fall 2021

Zachary Bahar, Executive Editor

Beginning in the fall of 2021, ETHS will implement several major changes that will radically restructure the school that so many have known, the largest of these being the adoption of a block schedule.

“ETHS recognizes that even prior to the pandemic, systemic changes were needed in order to address challenges faced by our students. Guided by the creativity, thoughtfulness, and compassion needed during the past year, we are committed to returning to a different ETHS,” Superintendent Eric Witherspoon wrote in a letter sent to students and families on March 24. “In order to implement changes by the upcoming school year, ETHS is working to adapt instructional practices and support our staff in their respective roles.”

As stated, the largest of these changes is the introduction of a block schedule to the in-person classroom. While block scheduling has been used throughout the duration of enhanced e-learning, it has never been implemented in a face-to-face classroom. The hybrid model is designed to slow the pace of the school day, allow for more hands-on experiences in classrooms and provide more time for social-emotional learning to be incorporated into the classroom.

“Benefits of the block schedule include fewer class transitions each day (and therefore a less hectic pace) and larger chunks of instructional time for more experiential, hands-on learning in all classes,” Witherspoon stated.

Under the new schedule, school will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will consist of eight block sections. On Wildkit Mondays, all of these sections will meet for 33 minutes, with classes ending at 2:07 p.m. (similar to the PD Mondays previously practiced). The rest of the week looks similar to the current enhanced e-learning schedule, with eight 85-minute blocks distributed over the course of two days. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students will attend blocks 1, 3, 5, 7, and on Wednesdays and Fridays, blocks 2, 4, 6, 8 with a 10-minute passing period between each block Tuesday through Friday. This gives a total of 203-minutes per class per week. School will still end at 3:30 on these days.

Lunch will also change to fit the new schedule, with each student being assigned to one of two 45-minute lunch blocks, positioned either before or after blocks 5 and 6, depending on the day. In addition, students will no longer be divided by grade level with common frosh-soph and junior-senior cafeterias. The South Study Cafe (SSC) will also be converted into a full cafeteria, with the Gym atrium filling the space formerly occupied by the SSC. 

In addition to these changes, ETHS will eliminate semester exams due to continued conversations regarding new modes of assessment, loss of instruction time and student wellbeing.

“ETHS has also recognized the need to address the amount of testing in high school, its impact on student wellbeing, and the need to increase instructional time. By eliminating semester exams, ETHS students may be able to better focus on the courses taught by ETHS teachers already skilled at preparing students for options after high school,” Witherspoon said. 

Lastly, all current tardies and social probations will be waived beginning in August. Going forward, students will no longer need to get tardy passes from safety officers, with teachers entering them directly. These changes come after a year of reconsidering what education needs to look like as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and mark an implementation of both those ideals of honoring student wellbeing and of ideas that have been circulating for several years. 

“Several committees met during the current and past school years to address the need for additional support for ETHS students. A bell schedule committee, tardy committee, discipline committee, and student wellbeing committee were among the ETHS groups that made recommendations. Teachers, staff, and administrators identified and discussed challenges associated with the school day schedule in particular. In addition to reviewing the recommendations of the bell schedule committee, staff members gathered feedback through the lens of the current e-learning structure.”

These changes mark a shift in ETHS. For juniors, this will be a radical difference from the school they left a year-and-a-half earlier; for freshmen and sophomores, it will be a new school environment brimming with possibilities.

“Changes to the 2021-22 school year are guided by the creativity, thoughtfulness, and compassion needed during the past year,” Principal Marcus Campbell emphasized. “We are committed to returning to a different ETHS.” 

More information and resources will be shared with students, families, and staff in the months prior to August 2021.