GUSTINE - The new year ushered in a modified schedule as well as the start of the second semester for students and staff at Gustine High.
The school shifted from a traditional seven-day period to a “modified” block schedule which provides an extended instructional period for each subject once a week.
Principal Adam Cano said the mid-year schedule change developed out of conversations with staff about the need for change - in particular an extended instructional day to accommodate more involved, lengthier classroom exercises.
Hence, the modified block schedule, which offers three 95-minute periods on Tuesdays and Thursdays, rotated among classes, with shorter 30-minute sessions for non-block classes interspersed. Standard schedules remain other week days, including early release on Mondays.
The message he received from teachers, Cano said, was that “we have been in this kind of rut and needed to shake it up. The thing that came up all the time was that they more time. We gave them time to do things.”
A standard period is about 57 minutes, he told Mattos Newspapers.
The shorter periods between the blocks ensure that teachers have at least minimal contact with their classes each day, Cano added.
“That 30 minutes could be used for review or a quiz,” he noted. “One of the things that teachers said was important was seeing their kids every day. They have that connection, and they want to keep it.”
Teachers, Cano emphasized, took the lead in letting administration know what they wanted to see in the new schedule.
“It was a two-month process, with a lot of conversation. The teachers did an excellent job in terms of collaboration,” Cano noted.
That collaboration has continued as the new schedule has been implemented and teachers share strategies on how to make the most of the instructional minutes.
“This is the high school’s, it is not mine,” he emphasized.
The semester will serve as a trial run of sorts, Cano added, and the schedule could be further amended next fall.
“The teachers can say that they want to stay with it, or modify it. We want to figure it out now so that when we are trying to be good at it next year we have had a five-month training period,” he explained.
Cano, a Gustine High alum who is in his first year as principal, said the new schedule is one of several changes implemented at the school.
They include weekend study sessions and after-school academies, he said by way of example, and the school also hopes to add sheltered English learner classes and other enhanced EL services.
“I think we can implement a lot more things,” Cano stated.
The overall message, he added, is that the status quo is not sufficient.
“You can’t stay stagnant,” Cano commented. “Let’s try it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”
Superintendent Bryan Ballenger echoed that sentiment.
“The things that we are doing show that we are listening to people and hearing them,” Ballenger said. “Our leadership is bringing in a breath of fresh air and trying (new approaches). We are never going to know (if it works) until we try.”