New school year brings significant changes

The new block schedule, added period, and redesigned senior religion class is refreshing for many students and teachers.

Eleanor Salkoff, Editor-in-Chief

The start of this 2017-18 school year brought a few key changes for Manogue students, parents, teachers, and administration — the most significant of which is the modified eight-period block schedule, which includes the addition of a class period, the redesigned senior religion program, and a completely new weekly timeframe for classes.  After one month into the new school year, students, teachers, and administration have different feedback on the new schedule, with the general consensus being positive, aside from some student concerns about time management and homework load.


Many Bishop Manogue students see the introduction of the new schedule as a key to their success in achieving their high academic goals and aspirations.  Junior Devon Riche is excited about the opportunity to take more AP classes and challenge himself to succeed in a rigorous course load: “Because of this new schedule,” explains Riche, “I have the ability to earn more AP credits and not worry about a religion or art class taking up a class period.”  Parminder Parmar, a classmate of Riche, agrees.  “I am now able to take more math and science classes,” says Parmar, who enjoys STEM-related topics.  The addition of the eighth period makes it easier for Riche, and students like him, to pursue their interests and explore various AP curricula.  


A major concern for high school students, and parents, is the stress caused by an overload of the often grueling combination of homework, classwork, and extracurricular activities.  According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, teens across the United States say that their stress level during the school year far exceeds healthy levels (5.8 versus 3.9 on a 10-point scale) and tops adults’ average reported stress levels (5.8 for teens versus 5.1 for adults).  Bishop Manogue students are no stranger to the emotional and psychological stress stemming from piles upon piles of AP homework, and the demands of high school sports, club sports, and the various extracurricular activities and clubs Manogue students are involved in.


A large part of the push for the eight-period schedule was the goal to drive students’ stress levels down, by reducing the amount and length of classes per day from six 55-minute periods to four 95-minute periods.  


Riche, along with many other Manogue students, is continuing to adjust to Manogue teachers’ approach to the block schedule — with only three class periods a week, the homework assignments per class period are much lengthier than last year.  However, Riche sees the benefits of these changes.  “The homework level is a little better this year,” explains Riche, “because during the weekdays we have more time to do our homework.”  However, he and Parmar both agree that having all eight classes on Monday can lead to a daunting amount of weekend homework.  “It’s all about time management,” maintains Riche.  “This new schedule has helped me become more organized with my schoolwork.”


Teachers, like sophomore honors English teacher Paul Richter, are also working to accommodate lesson plans and assigning homework and projects to Manogue’s new block schedule.  Mr. Richter says that although he has “never taught in this kind of schedule before,” he and his students have made an overall successful adjustment to the block schedule and eighth period.  The main challenge, admits Mr. Richter, “is that I tend to overplan, because I don’t want to underplan!”  To keep the long 95-minute class periods interesting for his students, Mr. Richter likes to incorporate group work, lecturing, and writing, while “still teaching bell-to-bell.”  


Mr. Richter says that with any change, there are some obstacles to overcome.  When working with the religion and social studies departments, English teachers hope to find common ground between not enough homework and too much, and they are always looking for improvements in their structure of lesson plans and class periods.  “We see points where we might be overloading students and are always in discussion about how to alleviate that,” says Mr. Richter.  He is always open to feedback and invites students to share their ideas about schedule adjustments and how to make the education at Bishop Manogue as good as it can be.