The Schedule Right Around the Block

Sirianna Blanck and Lucy Samuels

What’s the best schedule? A topic that no two students seem to have the same exact opinion on, every school in the country has a somewhat unique schedule. Some schools start early or end late, some use block schedules, some mandate eight hours on campus, and others only have students attend for a few hours. 

Chamblee’s traditional seven-period schedule is not representative of all of DeKalb County: many high schools, including Dunwoody, block their periods across semesters, with each student taking the four two-hour classes each day in the first semester and switching to four new courses in the second semester. Due to the pandemic, Chamblee has now also adopted a block schedule. 

However, Chamblee students are taking all seven of their classes all year, spending only half the week in each course. During the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year, students took what was essentially a half-day, with first through third period on Mondays and Thursdays and fourth through seventh period on Tuesdays and Fridays. During second semester, the schedule shifted to meet the school’s usual eight hours. Now, students take their odd periods on Mondays and Thursdays and even periods on Tuesdays and Fridays. In both semesters, Wednesday has been entirely asynchronous—a day designated for completing assignments without any live class sessions. Additionally, an ELT (Extra Learning Time) period has been added to even days during lunch to make up for the lost period.

At its core, block scheduling is meant to reduce the number of classes a student has per day. Some believe this allows students to focus on their individual subjects more, as they do not have to change between so many topics in a day.

“I can see the advantage to [having fewer subjects] because let’s say, I’ve got a really intense class like AP Chemistry. Let’s say third period is AP Chemistry, and second period is a class that takes a lot less mental real estate. Then, I could see it being a problem every single day where Chemistry is drowning out that less taxing class,” said Nate Kite (‘21), a senior who has preferred past year’s seven class schedules to the new block. “But also, I still don’t quite feel like a block schedule would really help with that.” 

Some students prefer the variety of a seven-period schedule that lets them study more topics.

“What works well with seven classes a day is you have more variation in your schedule,” said Ryan Lovejoy (‘23), a sophomore who prefers a non-block schedule.

Another argument against the semester-based block model is the fact that AP exams always occur in May.

“AP exams happen at the end of the year whether you want [them] to or not, so if you’re going to be taking AP Calculus first semester, all of a sudden those two weeks before the exam are going to be stressful because you will have forgotten everything,” said Kite. 

Students opposed to the block schedule also speculate about the effectiveness of using daily reinforcement to learn.

“Having ideas reinforced every day is probably more effective for learning. Although I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know,” said Kite. 

Kite also maintains that art, music, and language classes would create problems in the semester model as well.

“Classes like band do not do well if you only have it for one semester,” said Kite. “Actually, you get problems at Dunwoody [High School] where the band director will be like, ‘No, you can’t do this band event that’s in second semester because you’re only in my first-semester band class,’ which is ridiculous.”

However, some students believe that with this daily block schedule, music-focused classes could prosper, especially since there would be enough time in every class to rehearse a concert in its entirety. 

“Since it’s an hour and a half, we can go through all of our songs in one class period, which when we had Mr. Kuutti, he would have read-through Fridays, but we wouldn’t be able to spend that much time on each song, and if it was an hour and a half, we could regularly go through all the songs and spend more time,” said Caeley Woo (‘22), who has taken a shine to the new block schedule.

In the meantime, Lovejoy fears that language classes under a block schedule will suffer.

“Languages, you need to practice every day. I actually take two languages. I take French and German. So I think not having those every day, can really affect how you develop your pronunciation and your skills in that language,” said Lovejoy.

Although Chamblee has only recently introduced a block schedule, many of its students have experienced it before, as many elementary and middle schools around Atlanta follow a block schedule model. 

“I had a block schedule in elementary school,” said Kite. “Then, I got to middle school and high school and liked that we didn’t have a block schedule. So I’m not happy to be going back [to school now]. I have always thought that block schedules are […] annoying. I think even with time loss and class changes, it’s better to get every subject every day than just sit there waiting through your classes for 90 minutes.”

Many students were used to seeing their teachers every day as well.

“[In] one of my classes, I was having a hard time contacting that teacher, I’d sent her a few Remind [messages] and emails, but I wasn’t getting a response and because we weren’t having class. I couldn’t just ask her directly,” said Woo. “I actually never got a response on that and didn’t do well at all on that assignment.”

Not seeing teachers every day also hurt students like Lovejoy because it was harder to track upcoming assignments. 

“Teachers can help remind us every day [about] upcoming assignments and when they’re due,” he said.

Another new problem this year came from teachers who did not adapt their classes to Chamblee’s block schedule and instead expected students to turn in work or watch pre-recorded classes every day along with their other classes.

“In some classes, [teachers] assign Looms, so it’s almost like we’re learning every day and that can be a little stressful because we’re having longer classes, but we’re still expected to watch those videos,” said Woo. “But in most classes, I think my teachers are doing a good job getting through content in class, and it’s been less stressful for me overall.”


A new schedule also raises the question of productivity: with record lows for grades, attendance, and arguably, motivation, the schedule students follow could be vital for ensuring success.

Some students find that 90 minutes per class is far too long, often leading to boredom and a loss of focus. 

“I feel like, after being in class for 90 minutes, I sort of get tired of that subject. So it’s easier to easily think about other things and focus on the actual material itself,” said Lovejoy.

While many teachers end classes when the lesson ends, other classes last the full 90 minutes. Woo, however, does not feel that these classes affect her concentration.

“A couple of my teachers will go the full hour and a half, but those are usually classes where we have a lot to cover anyway, so I’m pretty engaged already. I feel like the increase in class time [has] given me a lot of downtime in most of my classes,” said Woo.

Regardless of attention span, some students find that the barrier of a screen consistently impedes productivity.

“I don’t really find that time to ever be particularly productive,” said Kite. “[When] the teacher forces you to sit through a 90-minute class and front of a screen, […] that is always, 100% without fail, miserable.”


The block schedule has also changed students’ relationship with their workload. Many students feel that they have the same amount of work as a seven-day schedule, but they must work more efficiently to manage their time and not procrastinate under the new block schedule.

“I think it’s probably about the same amount of work, but I like having [classes] every day so it’s harder to procrastinate and put stuff off to later in the week,” said Lovejoy. “Some teachers still will assign a lot of work almost as though we have class every day, and they’ll assign a large amount of work to be done by the end of the week. In that case, it’s essentially like having seven classes a day because you have to work efficiently and take one part of [the overall assignment] a day […] to get it done in an efficient manner.”

While the workload may very well be the same, some attribute a decrease in “busy work” to the new schedule, as teachers now have more flexibility about what time to use for teaching and when to make work due and therefore assign more meaningful projects.

“It’s pretty much the same workload for most of my classes. I believe we do have less busy work, especially like less class busy work, even though it’s pretty much the same workload. It’s more manageable because I can choose which days I do work on,” said Woo.

Kite believes a more strict schedule on assignments would help improve time management for students.

“If you have a block schedule, then instead of [the teacher] saying, ‘All right, turn this into me on Tuesday, turn this into me on Wednesday,’ she says, ‘Okay turn in Tuesday and Wednesday’s work to me on Thursday,’” said Kite. “If you wanted to manage workloads, I think perhaps a more effective method would be saying, you know, the math department can’t assign homework on Tuesdays, the science department can’t assign homework on Wednesdays, and so on.”  

Students often plan out their week in advance to accommodate the new block schedule.

“I can plan out the week better,” said Woo. “[Because I] only have a couple classes only a couple times a week, I know, basically, for that whole week what I’m going to do for that class, and I can sort of structure my schedule around that.” 

Changing the schedule will not fix every problem students face. Even with changes to time management and class order, there are some things students and teachers cannot control to some extent, such as their homework load. Students need to have homework and teachers need to assign it—and with the mix between online and in-person, it can be hard for teachers and students to balance the work outside of the classroom. Then, regardless of what schedule is being used, the problems of workload and mental health remain prevalent.

“The thing is at some point, homework mainly just becomes a barrier. There are situations where you understand the material and the reason you’re getting questions wrong [on tests] is because you’re losing sleep because of the homework, even though you understand everything,” said Kite. “You just don’t have the mental capacity because you’ve run out of sleep and that’s when homework should be turned down.”

Comparing STAR Period to ELT

During the 2019-2020 school year, Chamblee implemented the STAR period, a fifteen-minute break for students to go to tutorial, catch up on work, and get a small break from class, while remaining on the seven-classes-a-day schedule. Many have compared it to this year’s almost two-hour ELT, which seems to be the block schedule version of last year’s STAR period. 

Students who are participating in extracurricular clubs and sports found this extra time to be beneficial to get outside-of-class help that they could not attend otherwise.

“I also really like ELT time because teachers are so available then. It’s nice because I play soccer and so I can’t really go to bookings anymore in the afternoon. […] The only thing I would say about ELT is that some of my teachers use that time period to give us tests, which I feel like defeats the purpose because then, you can’t use that time to get help from your teachers or anything,” said Woo. “But overall, that’s been a really nice time, and I use it quite a bit.”

There is a debate over which was more helpful: ELT or STAR. With the significant differences in the time of each period, certain students have found one or the other to be what fits them. For example, some felt that STAR was not long enough to get as much done compared to ELT.

“A lot of times for me, I would just [waste time during STAR] because it was only like 15 or 20 minutes. I had just been talking to people, but now with ELT being so long, this is a good amount of time that I can get something done,” said Woo. “I liked STAR period because if I really had something I needed to do, I would definitely get it done. But, I took Statistics at the time and [the teacher] would have us come finish our test during STAR period, but then it was so short that sometimes it didn’t feel like that much time actually to do much.”

ELT is over an hour longer than STAR period, which Kite says equals more wasted time in the schedule.

“I think that STAR period was a really good version of ELT, […] because 15 minutes is plenty of time to provide a mental break, but it is also enough time that you can go ask a simple question to teachers and get a couple things clarified. You can do a lot in 15 minutes, but it doesn’t subtract a lot of time from the schedule. I think that by adding ELT, you’re wasting more time,” said Kite. “With STAR period, at least you’ve got a break if you’re not using it for anything else. […] I think that’s still perfectly valid and usable by everyone, but you get rid of diminishing returns on time that you give students off, and ELT is just going to be [free time] for a lot of students.”

The Future of Chamblee’s Schedule

As much as students debate which schedule is better or which they would prefer to have, ultimately the schedule must depend on the school model, whether Chamblee is virtual, hybrid, or in-person.

While Lovejoy thinks that a non-block schedule is better overall, he does not think that it would work well during virtual school. 

“Having to connect to seven different classes online can be a lot, which is also too much for teachers who have five classes a day. It can be hard to navigate all that virtually versus in person,” said Lovejoy. “I think it would be a lot mentally to be able to have seven different classes each day online, while in-person that’s what we’ve been doing our entire lives essentially.”

As the school’s charter is expiring and the transition out of virtual school is beginning, many wonder what will happen with Chamblee’s schedule.

“I think there definitely will be a discussion about fully converting to a block schedule [once we are back in in-person school.] But personally, I hope that we stay as a seven-day period, as that’s what works better for me,” said Lovejoy.

Regardless of the future of Chamblee’s schedule, students will be able to adapt.

“I think I’m going to be fine with either [schedule] because I’m used to a seven-class schedule. But, personally, I have really liked the block schedule this year, and I would hope that they would keep that,” said Woo.