Mundelein High's unusual schedule will end

 
 
Updated 9/28/2016 9:08 PM
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  • About 50 spectators attended a Mundelein High School board meeting Wednesday night. They watched the board vote in favor of a new eight-period school day for students starting in 2017-18, which will end an unusual block schedule.

      About 50 spectators attended a Mundelein High School board meeting Wednesday night. They watched the board vote in favor of a new eight-period school day for students starting in 2017-18, which will end an unusual block schedule. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

Mundelein High School officials capped two years of study Wednesday night by deciding to end an unusual block bell schedule.

By a 5-1 vote, the Mundelein District 120 board approved an eight-period day for students beginning in the 2017-18 academic season. Under the plan unveiled at Wednesday's board meeting, students will receive 52 minutes of instruction in seven class periods and the same amount of time for lunch.

"Is what we decide going to be perfect for everyone?" board member Al Hitzke said. "Probably not."

Mundelein is the only high school in Lake County using a block schedule. In place since 1996, students have four 90-minute classes instead of a shorter, more traditional eight periods.

Block schedule proponents contended the longer periods allow more time for hands-on learning and discourage long lectures. As part of their position, they said students have fewer classes each semester, but can have a more diverse schedule during a high school career because courses are completed quicker.

Several parents in favor of retaining the block schedule were among roughly 50 spectators in the District 120 board meeting room Wednesday night. Speaking at public comment time, parent Jennifer Brunkow asked the school board to receive more information before calling a vote.

"Saying 'no' today doesn't mean you can't say 'yes' later," Brunkow said.

However, parent Peter Rastrelli said the block schedule is "antiquated" and doesn't work.

Officials discussed the effects of different schedules on student performance at several board meetings and public forums this year, as well as the options moving forward. The recommendation from a bell schedule committee capped about two years of work on the issue.

Block schedule critics said the potential gaps between classes in the same subject -- such as math or a foreign language -- can allow students to forget material. Superintendent Kevin Myers said the eight-period schedule starting in 2017-18 will end the gaps and afford students a chance to see teachers every day.

Myers said students will receive a consistency in their days with eight periods that'll help them academically.

"What are successful (school) organizations? What do they do?" Myers said. "Well, a lot of it is they know what to expect every day walking into class. And it's not for a short period of time. It's that stability of consistency over time that helps make the difference."

Students are expected to be allowed flexibility with the new schedule by choosing from six to eight courses per year. Students will be required to earn 28 credits to graduate instead of the current 32.

When Mundelein High's block schedule was adopted in 1996, it occurred at a time when the student population had a reputation for behavioral problems and poor scholastic performance. Officials said they wanted to boost time in each class and to reduce time in passing periods to prevent conflicts in the halls.

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