Block schedule changes to accentuate student learning

Mental health, diversity and digital citizenship will be prioritized, but daily schedules altered

Educators and administrators have agreed upon new scheduling that integrates important topics into the existing curriculum. This is happening in the form of in-class activities that cover everything from online literacy to diversity and equity to managing stressors and students’ mental health.

“Many of us in the field of education thought to ourselves: How can we help our students? How can we start talking about things that we weren’t talking about before? Where are the gaps and how can we work to try to fill in some of those gaps?” English teacher Leslie Miller said.

In order to accommodate these block schedule changes, the school day will operate on the activity bell schedule. This subtracts five minutes from each class period, leaving a 20 minute block for the in-class activities. Presentations will be similar to the Friday “connect” periods that took place during distance learning.  

The upcoming block schedule changes intend to benefit students’ educations. Lessons have been planned to address topics outside of the regular curriculum.

“In order to educate students, it’s not just about knowledge, facts and critical thinking skills, it’s about taking care of our students and making them feel comfortable, safe and respected,” Miller said.

Despite these in-class activities diverting time away from regular curriculum, Principal Mat McClenahan believes that time must be taken to cover the content.  

“At Oak Park we really want students who achieve highly but I think it’s important to recognize that sometimes there are foundational topics that impact students and it doesn’t make sense to me to overlook them,” McClenahan said.

Some of the topics covered are mandated by the state of California, such as media literacy skills, or digital citizenship.

According to Senate Bill 830 (2018), lessons on digital citizenship are required by the state of California “to ensure that young adults are prepared with media literacy skills necessary to safely, responsibly, and critically consume and use social media and other forms of media.” 

Other topics, such as diversity and equity comes from a district-wide awareness of these topics and their importance. Social learning, emotional learning and mental health strategies will also be prioritized following the past school year of remote learning.

“I think it’s really important at this time that we take a moment to kind of pause and make sure that we’re addressing those needs,” Counselor Jenny Charrett said. “How we deal with our emotions impacts how we relate to other people and our ability to relate successfully with people is going to be a key piece in how we can contribute well and function optimally in this world.”

One goal of these in-class activities is to educate Oak Park students and guide them through the period of readjustment of returning to school. 

“I hope people come to it with the understanding that there is an intention and a positive intention behind it,” Charrett said. “And that they can be open to the information, receive it and see if they can apply it.”