GN Weighs In: District 87 Schedule Changes


Dianne Lee Jimenez

Rhye Nelson, ’23, gets academic help from Ms. McMullen, English Teacher

If there is one thing that has been a constant at Glenbard North, it is the class schedule. Yet, questions regarding student physiology, academic self-efficacy, and models from neighboring school districts have prompted District 87 to reconsider the format that has been utilized for over half a century. 

To remedy the underutilization of student resources, the district proposed implementing a Glenbard Hour: a period isolated from regular classes for students to connect better with their teachers. Starting the 2023-2024 school year, Mondays and Fridays will have classes cut to 43 minutes to make time for the Glenbard Hour. It will serve as a way for students to receive academic aid without having to cut their lunch periods, arrive early, or stay late after school.

“Looking at data about failure rates and asking students how they feel, if they’ve gotten help in their classes…was a big motivating factor,” says Shannon McMullen, English teacher. Despite the accessibility of student resources such as STRIVE, the QUAD, and the Write Place, students seem reluctant to seek aid. McMullen suggests that having lunch as the only opportunity to reach out has made students hesitant to access academic resources—along with stigma and the need for downtime in between classes. 

According to the official district website, Glenbard Education Association (GEA) president Kevin Sutton hopes that these schedule changes will “make the path to success more attainable for every student in [the] district,” allowing students to make up tests or labs and receive extra support. In addition, the Glenbard Hour allocates time for advisory sessions that include fire safety drills, standardized testing, and post-secondary planning, that would otherwise interfere with class time.

I like the extra time that it gives people to do their homework, catch up on schoolwork, retake tests, or meet with teachers during the day in the Glenbard Hour rather than having to before or after school, or during lunch

“I would love a Glenbard Hour,” says Emily Mrowca, ’24. As a junior, Mrowca looks at the Glenbard Hour with optimism for college planning, to help her better “understand what [she’s] gonna be getting into after [high school] and how to get prepared.”

But while Mrowca sees the benefits of a Glenbard Hour, she remarks that, currently, “Teachers, in general, are just accommodating on top of all the programs the school is actually providing.” It brings up the question: are failure rates born from a lack of opportunity to receive aid, or is it simply a lack of initiative on the student’s part?

In conjunction with a scheduled “help” period, the district is considering implementing a later start and end time for the school day. “Most teenagers are not morning people,” remarks McMullen. In fact, according to UCLA Health, puberty in teens causes a natural shift in their circadian rhythms, known as the “sleep phase delay” in which the need for sleep is delayed for about two hours. Coupled with school commitments and social media addiction, most teenagers get less than the recommended nine hours of sleep. 

Lisbeth Garcia, ’25, worries that ending school later will impact after school activities: “That means you’ll have to stay like 40 minutes more, so you won’t have that much time for homework.” Likewise, altered start and end times may interfere with students’ work schedules. However, whether or not the Glenbards will implement this change depends largely on busing logistics.

Perhaps the biggest change will be Glenbard’s introduction of 90-minute block periods in the 2024-2025 school year. When asked about this adjustment, Mrowca replied, “I don’t have the mental capacity, personally, even some of my friends I know probably wouldn’t, and they have trouble focusing within 48-minute periods.” Garcia humorously echoes the sentiment, stating, “[I] feel like a lot of students would fall asleep in class,” bringing up concerns about the effectiveness of block scheduling for student learning.

Yet, District 87 Administrators are hopeful that having longer classes will increase student focus on specific subjects with fewer interruptions. Beginning in the 2024-2025 school year, students will have four 90-minute periods on Wednesdays and Thursdays, resulting in half as much time spent on passing periods, and more opportunities to delve deeper into each lesson. 

I have a feeling that 90 minutes classes will be too long and draining…the less frequent passing period and break, the more unfocused and inattentive the students are

Living in the digital age where there are various “things competing for our attention,” McMullen advocates for “variety, making sure those days are really student-focused” in order to keep class engaging. These longer periods have the added bonus of mirroring university life. For instance, at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, classes average 90 minutes. Admittedly, there’s a huge difference between taking four to six classes per semester in college and having two days of block scheduling at Glenbard North. Nevertheless, the block schedule offers opportune moments for student collaboration and hands-on learning, fostering a sense of independence necessary for post-secondary education.

“Like anything, there will be adjustments,” says McMullen. To compensate for the sudden changes, the district plans on introducing the new schedule over a two-year period. Since block scheduling won’t happen until the year 2024-2025, students and staff are given time to transition, which also allows opportunities for teachers, building administrators, and district administrators to work collaboratively to fine-tune the new format.  

Other than minor refinements, the Glenbard Township High School schedule has remained fairly constant for the past 48 years. But the pandemic has proven that adjustments are possible, and hybrid scheduling can work. Perhaps it is prime time for a more permanent change to occur.