Mundelein Students, Teachers See Benefits in Block Schedule

Article excerpt

Byline: Robin Mohr Daily Herald Staff Writer

Since the start of school, teacher Tom Jurco has lost some 400 years of history.

"I just started Rome," said the Mundelein High School history instructor, explaining how he's behind more than a week with lessons.

"I should be in the Middle Ages right now."

Jurco isn't the only one experiencing a time warp at the high school.

Under the block schedule implemented this year, the four-period day has been flying by for students and teachers alike.

And whether they're prepared or not, the first term ends in two weeks. Which means, by mid-October, unless they blinked, students and teachers will have wrapped up a half-year's coursework in four subjects.

Ironically, the accelerated schedule is a result of stretching the traditional 50-minute period to 90 minutes.

The trade-off for students and teachers is they only have four classes a day instead of eight.

While Mundelein High School is the first in Lake County to switch to block scheduling, the revamped school day has been successfully implemented for several years at schools in Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

Locally, high schools in Batavia and Carpentersville are making similar changes this fall, and Barrington High School is also considering the switch.

While many Mundelein students feared they'd be stuck in boring classes for an hour and a half, that hasn't been the case, they say.

Teachers have typically responded to the longer periods by varying activities to make the lessons engaging.

"It makes the day go faster," said sophomore Andrew Roy, 16, who was a little leery of the block schedule at first. He's since come around to the idea.

"It's better," Roy said. "You can concentrate on things, zero in on things, having four classes rather than eight."

Likewise, student Faith Nastali, another convert, was surprised to discover she prefers the block schedule to the eight, 50-minute periods previously offered.

"I thought I wouldn't be able to sit through 90 minutes of class without getting bored or falling asleep," the 16-year-old senior said.

The accelerated pace, for the most part, has required teachers to retool their lessons. They've had to vary activities to keep students from getting bored, as well as adapt to the faster pace or risk falling behind. …