Block Scheduling Proposed; New College Hour to Start Next Fall

Michael Konigsberg
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Proposals for new “block scheduling” are nearly final, slating Glendale Community College’s class schedule to be changed once more for the 2002-2003 school year.

Block scheduling will order all classes into 12 uniform blocks of time per day, 80 minutes each, with 15-minute “pass periods” in between class blocks. Blocks begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until 10 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and go from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The “college hour” for campus activities will begin one and a half hours earlier, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
According to Vice President of Instructional Services Steve White, this change will make those class meetings now of different lengths equal and allow students to plan a more efficient schedule. It’s an experimental solution to the compressed semesters’ schedules that gave students so much frustration this year, one that, is hoped to gain better funding from the state in the bargain.
“I think students are really going to like this big time,” said White.

Administrators were conceiving major changes to GCC’s scheduling as early as October 2000, wanting to include the new winter session in the 2001-2002 school year. They were attracted to the idea of offering students the additional term with more time to complete courses as other schools had previously tested, but it was not without its repercussions.

The term in the middle of the school year compressed the preceding and following fall and spring semesters. Class offerings were cut and class meetings lengthened, often to beginnings and endings on the quarter-hour, all annoyances to many students.

Faculty also had been looking into a better way to accommodate science lab courses. Students in biology, chemistry and math have been failing at an unacceptable rate, said Associated Students of Glendale Community College Vice President of Campus Activities Ronny Hovanessian, who is helping plan the block scheduling. Some faculty and administrators theorized the trouble was due to scheduling that does not allow enough continuous class time, he said.

If it is passed in campus governance, the plan for block schedules may make next year less problematic.
The new block schedule will offer more classes and class meetings in all departments, New scheduling will put lab classes at three or four hours in length each, allowing by the end of a day (at 10 p.m.) for three classes from which a student could choose.

The A.S. also had suggested an improved schedule to pump up attendance at college hour activities. A.S. officers noticed a drop this year in student attendance. They speculated that the current 1-to-2 p.m. college hour might be inconvenient for students, especially if they hold jobs that start in the early afternoon.

The selection of courses next fall will mostly match last fall’s layout; however; some reductions are on the horizon. Forty classes fewer will be offered. The 2002-2003 year will see a total of 125 fewer classes from Fall 2002 and Spring 2003 altogether. Also, according to Hovanessian, the summer will lose one of two sessions, making the summer and winter sessions seven weeks each, due to the new block plan.

Block scheduling has been through open governance meetings regularly for several months. All students, faculty, and staff have had the opportunity to attend and contribute opinions to the proposed change.

Art Instructor Caryl St. Ama definitely objects to the 7:30 a.m. start, among other alterations to art classes. “I don’t like the idea of the class starting that early, and from a poll we took, students don’t like it either,” she said. She explained that studio art classes already follow a 2-4 hour block schedule of their own, and that sizing them to blocks of 85 minutes would be an awkward fit, a poor use of studio time.

Darren Leaver, GCC geography instructor, wishes that all the adjustments to the schedule would finish, feeling they’re a bit confounding. “I [want] students to remember that they have a degree of control over this issue,” he said. “They’re the ones that have to deal with this. And they should voice their concerns to their elected student representatives.”

As the state funding cuts have required GCC to tighten its budget considerably for next year, any voluntary faculty and staff vacancies next year will go unfilled to retain the higher number of classes that will be offered. Six faculty, two administrators, and one classified worker will not return in Fall 2002. White is careful to distinguish that no firings or lay-offs will be among these vacancies.

The two-year experimental period with the compressed calendar and block schedules is supposed to draw a superior community college funding formula from the state as it draws ever-growing numbers of students to enroll.

One such local college using this funding formula is Santa Monica College, whose block schedule GCC’s will resemble. L.A. Pierce College also implemented block scheduling, accommodating a 20 percent student growth, and generated extra growth dollars from the state.

Despite the state’s promised benefits, White finds that this FTS (full-time student) equivalent funding formula leaves room for improvement. It’s percentage of dollars to students needs to go up if it is really to help colleges, he said – colleges straining under an already sliced state budget.

Negative reactions to the current changes revolve around the compression of the meat of the school year, fall and spring.

Studio art students, for example, balk at the prospect of starting their morning classes as early as 7 a.m. in order for all to finish by noon. Hovanessian has heard more complaints about the loss of one whole summer session.

However, Hovanessian sees definite gains from this year’s reorganization. “If you look at the schedule now, you notice we are wasting a lot of time,” he said. Much fewer classes are offered this year compared to last. He believes that fitting as many classes as possible into uniform blocks will be the most efficient use of every hour on campus.

“Some people have a problem with change, period,” said White. “If you do it too often, it drives people nuts.”

The new block schedule will begin Fall 2002.