September 17, 1997 / Fall 1997 / Staff Management

Works For Me!

Written by Sarah Morgan

Block scheduling can prove to be a blessing for yearbook programs

The growing trend of school systems across the country changing from a six-or seven-period day to a block schedule has made it even more challenging to produce a yearbook.

Advisers and their staffs are becoming all too familiar with phrases such as the “four by four” or “modified block.” Although there are several versions of the block schedule, they all imitate the college semester schedule. Students finish a single course in one semester, spending the equivalent of one-and-a-half hours per day in class rather than the traditional 45 or 50 minutes.

The results of this trend are as varied as the school systems utilizing it. In some school systems, yearbook staffs are forced to meet before or after school, placing additional stress and strain on advisers because of conflicts with extracurricular activities and after-school jobs. Other schools that have implemented block scheduling are allowing yearbook classes to meet during the first semester, but require the staff to meet after school during the second semester.

When administrators at my school were in the planning stages of block scheduling, there were a whirlwind of concerns about what would happen to the yearbook class. I sat down with my principal and explained to him what I believed would happen to the school’s yearbook program if we were forced to meet after school. His decision was to allow the yearbook staff to meet as a class both semesters.

Because of that decision, the result of converting to a block schedule has been a blessing in disguise. Now, working on the book outside of school hours is rarely necessary. With twice as much class time available, the days of working to make deadlines after school, during weekends, Christmas holidays or snow days are over.

Since my staff gets to meet for 90 minutes every day, the most difficult aspect of the change to a four-period day for me has been the inability to give students enough credits to keep them on the staff for more than one year. Tennessee has only approved one credit for journalism, even though band students are allowed to earn up to eight credits during a four-year period.

To get around that restriction, I had to take advantage of the policy that permits each school system to grant some “in-house” credits – with the approval of the state department of education. In 1996, I wrote and submitted a curriculum for Journalism 2 and Journalism 3. The courses were approved on a temporary basis, meaning they will need to be approved again after three years. At least I could now keep students on staff for a full two years or four semesters.

This year, I wrote and submitted a curriculum for PageMaker 1 and PageMaker 2. Those courses, however, were not approved. I am currently planning to rework them and submit them as desktop publishing courses.

Overall, the implications of block scheduling on yearbook is like so many other things in life – it has its pros and cons. In order to insure that you experience more pros than cons, it is vital that you become involved within your school or district in any committees formed to study block scheduling and that you are vocal about what it will take to protect your program.

Work with other advisers in your school district, and involve your students in board meetings and other activities to be sure that the decision-makers know your needs. Remember, with several thousand dollars at stake in most yearbook budgets, you carry a considerable amount of clout.

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Sarah Morgan