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RIH: Block Schedule Would Decrease Science Instruction, Increase Costs

The Ramapo Indian Hills Superintendent recommended the board not switch to a block schedule at the district's two high schools.

RIH Board of Education
RIH Board of Education

After its third investigation into switching to block scheduling in three years, Ramapo Indian Hills will likely be sticking with the schedule it has.

Interim Superintendent Ernie Palestis gave a presentation to the Board of Education Monday night detailing the pros and cons of switching to a block schedule. In it, he recommended the district not make the switch.

During a recent study on the possibility of block scheduling, Palestis said the district created mock schedules that could be implemented at the schools, and prepared an in-depth financial analysis of what the impacts of implementing those schedules would be.

In past studies on the block, he said a schedule was never actually run through the district’s scheduling system.

“This time, we saw what a schedule would actually look like,” he said. “It gave us a tremendous amount of information.”

That info included an unintended consequence – a “significant” drop in the number of hours students would be taking science classes, he said. Moving from the current schedule to a block model would force the district to decrease the number of science instruction hours by more than 1,000 each year, Palestis said.

He also said the block could force students to have fewer options when choosing electives, because elective period scheduling would need to remain consistent between semesters.

From the financial study, Palestis said the switch to a block schedule would cost an estimated $50-$150,000 to implement, and an additional $130,000 each year it operated. The increased costs, he said, would be mostly due to a 75-minute unit lunch that would have all of the schools’ students eating at the same time.

That would mean, in addition to the cafeterias, using the gyms and other spaces in the schools to host lunch, he said. It would require mobile food units, more selling stations and equipment, and a crew to convert the gyms to cafés, and back, everyday. All of those have costs associated, Palestis said. 

Overall, “we are a very high functioning district,” he said. By switching to a block, “we would be dismantling what I think is a very good thing…I am a proponent of the block if it works for a district. It doesn’t work for us.”

However, Palestis did recommend a panel of administrators and teachers explore some other changes that could be made to make the current schedule more effective, like increasing the number of required credits students would take during high school, adding elective options to the schedule, and reorganizing the testing day scheduling.

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