Is Block Scheduling Really Coming to SHS?


Contrary to recent media reports, Stamford High’s proposed switch to block scheduling may not be set in stone for next year. The transition from a rotating seven-period schedule to an alternating two-day schedule, each day consisting of four 90-minute periods, has been highly discussed over the past several years, but its implementation is far from certain.

In a recent interview, Principal Ray Manka confirmed that there is a lot left to discuss before a concrete plan for block scheduling can be implemented:

“We’re still at the point where we’re going to listen to what’s going on, and if it’s in the best interest of our school district and our staff and our students that, should we be able to delay that a little more, we’ll take that into consideration too. Even though we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve presented it to the board and we’ve said, ‘is this doable?’ we’ve still got a lot of things to weigh,” Manka said.

Proposed block scheduling has been put before the Board of Education, but not yet formally presented to Stamford High School staff. Manka anticipates a faculty meeting on Wednesday, January 16, to be “a pivotal meeting.” He added that he will present and discuss a plan for professional development in preparation for block scheduling.

“If we don’t have enough time or enough resources to fit it into semester two, maybe we pivot a little bit and we also take a different approach to make sure we do things responsibly,” said Manka on the outcome of this meeting.

“Schedule changes like this have to go through the Board of Education,” Manka explained. “They have to be able to say that we can support the needs of said schedule.”  For example, according to Manka, the addition of an eighth class to the Stamford High schedule would necessitate the hiring of four new teachers, a change which is not necessarily financially feasible by next year.

“Here’s a whole bevy of options of what we can do, but which would best match up with our fiscal needs, our student needs, our community, our teachers…” said Manka.

One of the factors most favorably influencing the shift to a block schedule is Stamford High’s state-mandated transition from a 20-credit graduation requirement to a 25-credit one beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. “If we go to 25 [credits], seven classes a year times four makes 28 opportunities to earn 25 credits. If you go to an eight period schedule, now that jumps to 32 opportunities to get 25 credits,” explained Assistant Principal Matt Forker.  Manka emphasized that “we can’t walk this close fine line” where deserving students are in peril of failing to graduate because they cannot reach the credit requirement.

Manka also addressed the competitive pressure for Stamford High to move to a block schedule by pointing out that “a lot of the school districts around us, who are creating graduates who are applying to a lot of the same colleges that you and your classmates are applying for, all of a sudden have transcripts that have 32 credits on them as opposed to our 28.” Students with more credits under their belts stand to be more competitive than their peers.

Manka asserted that “by the end of January, we will have a definitive vision of what will happen with Stamford High School next year.”

Regardless of the outcome, Manka seeks to handle the potential transition responsibly. “While we’ve got the good graces of the board right now, and we’ve got the district’s support, we’ve got to make sure that what we’re going to do is going to fit into a development plan for semester two. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to make us feel uncomfortable or rushed,” Manka said.