The “Pascack Schedule” – Thoughts from Mr. DeMarrais

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Pascack Hills High School has been making some great, vast changes this year from block schedules to Pascack Period. The new schedule has aroused different opinions from students, proving that the whole program is a “hot” topic. I had a chance to interview Mr. DeMarrais on his and the faculty’s personal thoughts about the new schedule.

 

Ginny: How are the responses (from parents, faculty staff, students, etc.) so far about the new schedule changes? How do you feel about them?

Mr. DeMarrais: The vast majority of my discussions about the new schedule with faculty and students have been very positive.

 

G: What prompted you and the administration to change the whole schedule system?

D: The district administrative team moved to the new schedule for a multitude of reasons; the most important are student wellness and increased opportunities for innovative instruction.

 

G: Do you think the new schedule has been successful so far?

D: So far I feel things have gone very well.  It is way too early to fully evaluate the success of the new schedule; however, it seems that the rotating periods have served both the students and teachers well.  I am also seeing some interesting and exciting lessons between longer periods.  We are looking for even bigger and better things as teachers and students continue to get acclimated to the changes.

 

G: What are the pros (and cons, if any) of the new schedule, regarding the unified lunch, Pascack Period, and block scheduling?

D: I will answer this in 3 separate phases:

Unit lunch

Pros: Clubs and activities can meet during the school day, allowing athletes, band members and those in the play the opportunity to participate in multiple activities.

[Also] Students will always have the opportunity to have lunch with their friends (that did not happen in the old schedule that had four different lunch periods);

Con: Feeding 600 students at the same time can be challenging, but I think it has gone well so far.  Bad weather will be the next test; the weather has been great so far, allowing many students to enjoy eating outdoors.

Pascack Period
The benefit and main concept of the Pascack period is student choice. Students have one 85-minute period a week to do what they believe will serve them best in terms of wellness. They can take an L2L [Learn to Learn] course, do homework, study, work on a project or study, either individually or in a group.  Some students may choose to relax with friends.  The administrative team feels it is important that students learn to make mature choices and to manage their time. It is a life skill especially important when the get to college. From an administrative standpoint, the Pascack Period allows us to schedule assemblies, class meetings, special programs, and pep rallies without interrupting the instructional periods.

Block Periods

The longer periods provide teachers with the opportunity to be more creative and try new things in terms of instruction.  It allows them to delve more deeply into a topic once per week in each class.

 

G: How satisfied are you on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) about the new change?

D: I have been thrilled so far with the new schedule.  I thought we would have struggled a little more with the change. I credit both the teachers and the student body for making this work so well.  Students and teachers have embraced the changes and have been understanding and flexible as we grow into the changes and develop a routine.  I give it a 9.5!

 

G: Are there any changes you want to make regarding the schedule next year?

D: The administrative team, with teacher and student input will evaluate the program through the course of the year. We have to give the program time before we can tweak it or change it.

 

G: Do you have one comment or piece of advice to the students about the new schedule?

D: Continue to be flexible and open-minded. There is no progress without change, and no change with out some struggle.