MHS Moves to Modified Block Schedule for 19-20

MHS Moves to Modified Block Schedule for 19-20; One More Small Move to Reduce Student Stress, Improve Opportunities for Connection
Posted on 04/30/2019

MHS Moves to Modified Block Schedule for 19-20Five years ago, Mason High School ditched its trimester schedule for a more traditional, 7-bell semester schedule. The switch saved $750,000 each year - but also left many students reporting feelings of additional stress and anxiety, and teachers sharing concerns about the lack of flexibility and time needed for deeper lessons and project-based learning. Next year, MHS students will still be able to take seven classes each semester, but will have four, 70-minute bells on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and seven, 47-minute bells on Monday and Friday. There are no additional costs with the new schedule. 

The Mason City School District (and the high school in particular) has been examining ways to promote students’ mental well-being. During district CommUNITY Conversations and ReIMAGINE Learning sessions, students, residents, and educators have been looking at ways to alleviate students stress in a high-achieving school.

“From day one, I’ve been impressed by our Comets’ drive and dedication. However, I have also seen that MHS sometimes feels competitive and stressful for our students and their families,” said Bobby Dodd, MHS Principal. “When schools change bell schedules, it's a challenge to find a schedule that works the best for all students and staff. I am grateful for the committee of teachers who have worked on this schedule since the 2016-17 school year.  The committee studied many alternatives to our current schedule - including analyzing student and staff focus group data, input from CommUNITY conversations and reviewing other schools’ schedules. Their creativity and desire to create a more productive school day for our students and staff is to be applauded. Many of our teachers have taught on the trimester, so they welcome going back to opportunities for 70-minute classes, but also find benefits that not every lesson, every day has to be that long. Most of all, our staff is very excited about the opportunity to build relationships in a more authentic way. We’ve seen what happens when students are anxious about not taking enough AP courses, fearing what happens if they don’t get an “A”, and have concerns about getting into their first choice of colleges.  The new schedule is another step we are taking to reduce student stress and foster an environment where we can make learning more personalized for our students.

An innovative new part of the schedule is “Connect” time - an hour block that happens weekly on Wednesdays. During Comet Connect time students have the opportunity to connect, collaborate, refuel and recharge.  During this unstructured time, students will be able to sign up for help sessions with teachers or to connect with peers in study groups, participate in club meetings or interest groups, participate in individual or group counseling sessions, take part in experiential learning opportunities on or off the school’s campus, or gather to create or tinker.

“Our staff is very excited about the opportunity to build relationships in a more authentic way. The new schedule is just one more step we can take to reduce student stress and foster an environment where we can make learning more personalized,” says Dodd.

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