For many decades, the school day for most primary and secondary schools was from 8 AM to 3 PM. However, many school districts are currently evaluating whether this is the best plan for multiple reasons.
First, technology has become more prevalent in recent years, leading to a deluge of additional online education resources. This change has made education more accessible than ever before at nearly every level. It has also led to an increase in homeschooling as many parents can access the resources they need.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic created a desire for an on-demand model for education. Many school leaders made the tough call to shift to a virtual format throughout the pandemic for the full school day. This change was a considerable challenge for many families, but it became normal once they found their rhythm.
The benefits and drawbacks of remote learning are increasingly being discussed in the post-pandemic conversation around education. Many of these conversations are often that a flexible schedule would be the best possible option. These flexible schedules can provide both the benefits of remote learning and in-person instruction with few drawbacks.
Flexible schedules are especially appealing for high school students. Most high schools operate with many periods back to back, resulting in students rushing from one class to another.
Many high school students have jobs, and scheduling around a school day can be difficult. And of course, many students have different learning and emotional needs throughout the day. The culmination of these concerns is that it may be better to move away from a hectic school day and provide students and teachers with flex time.
Schools considering shaking up the traditional school day may consider alternative scheduling options. Examples of modified school schedules may include:
Flexible Period Schedule
Most high schools are on a standard period schedule, with 7-9 periods a day lasting 45 minutes to one hour. However, some school districts have modified this schedule by adding a flex period. By reducing the length of each class by five minutes, you can carve out a flex period of over one-half hour without reducing time for lunch.
This option provides students with some time to seek assistance, ask questions, work with a counselor, build relationships, or just decompress and mentally prepare for the next class. Of course, this flex period reduces instruction time for each class, but the benefit is that it allows students time to get the support and help they need while on campus.
4×4 Block Schedule
A 4×4 block schedule usually consists of just four classes during the school day, but they are double the length of traditional classes at around 90 minutes. This schedule allows students to focus more deeply on the topics and concepts, allowing students to get a deeper understanding. Unfortunately, this schedule may be more difficult for students who cannot maintain focus for that length of time.
However, making this schedule flexible can help break up the monotony of prolonged instruction. For example, a flex period of 32 minutes can be added to the day by taking eight minutes from each period. This time can be used for small group projects, focused learning time, or direct student and teacher interaction.
A hybrid schedule became very common throughout the pandemic. Students meet at school several days a week and learn at home on the other days. It offers a way to break things up and ensure students have multiple ways to learn.
It’s an excellent option for students who are comfortable learning at home independently. But it can be a challenge for students who need more guidance or those with a home not suited for learning.
Some schools may also want to add a flex day, to allow students more free time to work on collaborative projects or learn to manage their time.
Flexible Modular Schedule
A flexible modular, or flex mod, schedule is split into mods that last between 15 and 30 minutes. Each class may have several different mods, and students do not have the same classes every day.
This option is great for ensuring students get what they need in their schedule while having additional flex time for teacher collaboration, direct assistance, small group work, and time with counselors. It can be challenging to manage, though.
The flexibility offered with a flex mod schedule depends upon how the school structures the mods, although this option will inherently have more flexibility than other schedules.
With a rotating schedule, each period is the same length, between 45 and 60 minutes. Students attend all classes every day, but they occur at different times. This schedule can be great for keeping students engaged, but it can be hard to track which classes occur each day.
With a flexible schedule, you can take a few minutes from each class (similar to the process with a flexible period schedule). This change allows you to create a flex period to engage in other academic activities.
The reality is that school choice has never been more at the top of parent and student minds than it is in the post-pandemic climate. As a result, many families became used to flexible schedules that combine class time with home-based learning.
Additionally, many parents and educators see value in breaking up the day to allow all students to get everything they need to succeed academically.
And the reality is that flexible high school schedules ensure students have the time to reach out to get direct assistance or work with tutors or counselors if they can benefit from it. Of course, the options found here are not the only ways to add flexibility to school schedules. But they represent some of the most popular strategies that have been successful for other schools that have implemented flexible schedules.