West Fargo High School Introduces Block Schedule Coming 2023-24 School Year


Example draft of a block schedule.

Tyger Albano, Head Editor

Since the first day, there has been talk across West Fargo High School of a new schedule coming for the 2023-2024 school year. On Friday, November 4th, it was confirmed in PackerTime that students next year will be following the new block schedule. The schedule was added to go along with the academy model that will come in a few years. The early use of the schedule is to prepare teachers and students for the academy model, and the block in general. 

I had the privilege to chat with Rachel Bachmeier, Principal of West Fargo High School, about next year’s schedule. When asked about how the block ties in with the academy model, she states, “it’s definitely a stepping stone towards the academy model.” Bachmeier said. “It’s hard to have community engagement in fifty minutes when you get in your car you drive to business and you’re there for fifteen-twenty minutes before you have to drive back to campus, so having a block schedule kind of opens up more work based or community volunteering authentic experiences for students to have off campus or to bring those people onto our site and so I think that was initially were the conversation began and of course there are a plethora of other benefits about block scheduling, especially with the capacity to earn credit for students and that I think continue the conversation. We wanted to shift to block scheduling before academies to take one bite of the elephant.” 

Essentially, the block schedule would help with the academy model by allowing more time for students to be more engaged in their interests, not to be blocked by a short class period. It also allows students to travel between schools more efficiently and effectively, for example classes like the jet program that is currently offered as a block over at elementary schools, so students have enough time to get there and get back. 

Many may have not known that West Fargo High School has gone through a block schedule before. In 2010, the school had a block, where students would take 4, 90-minute classes that switch at the quarter. However according to Bachmeier, it did not go as planned. “It’s bad in that if you’re a freshman and you take algebra one, you get done with algebra one by the end of semester one and then maybe you’ll take geometry until second semester of your sophomore year now you have a year without math.” 

Next year, students will instead be taking 4, 90-minute classes that switch every other day, also known as AB days. For example, on an A day a student will have 3, 90-minute classes and one 90-minute study hall/open. On a B day, a student will have 3, different 90-minute classes and one 90-minute study hall/open. 

Bachmeier believes that this will be better from WFHS’s former block schedule stating, “students are still going to have two opens, one each day, so you’re only taking three classes each day. So maybe on an A day you’re done at two PM and maybe on the B days you don’t have to be here until ten AM. But for students who need credit recovery you may want to graduate early some of those kind of things, they could take the full block if they want.” The large study halls/opens also allow for students who are in activities to leave school early and not be punished. 

One of the biggest questions that have been thrown around is, “how will the block schedule effect student learning?” Bachmeier answers, “I think with any big change there will be adjustments, I don’t think we can measure the success of this change next year. Order changes are huge, it takes time, it takes perseverance, it takes people identifying problems, because we’re going to have problems and we have to be ready to fix them.” Bachmeier said. “I think that some of the biggest improvements to student learning in the research and other schools is the depth. It promotes learning activities like discussions, scenarios, and labs.” 

I also got the opportunity to talk to Assistant Superintendent Vincent Williams about the block, more regarding if WFPS schools are ready, as schools in the area such Horace and Moorhead have already been in a block schedule. 

When asked if Williams believes if West Fargo and Sheyenne High School is ready to shift schedules, he said, “I think that depends on the building and its autonomy. If either principal are receiving bad feedback from staff, parents, or students, they are able to stop it at any time. We don’t want anyone to think that the block is being ‘forced’ onto schools.” 

Williams refers to the option that either principal can end the block if they deem necessary. When asked how this would affect the academy model, Williams answered, “I don’t see how we can effectively implement the academy model without a template.” 

Another topic that has come up regarding block is how kids missing school would affect their work/grades. Williams said that, “It’s the same as if a student were to miss class today. If we have students who are missing for reasons other than activities, we need to figure out why. As educators, we need to develop systems to support those students. Because if a student misses a 90-minute class, what can we do to catch that kid up that doesn’t require them missing further instructions? We have all kinds of technology we can take advantage of.” 

A personal question I had for him was how classes such as gym class would be affected by the block. Mr. Williams said that, “We have to ask ourselves, ‘what can our teachers do differently within that 90-minute block that doesn’t require kids to be active?’ ‘How can we use group and individual activities?’ Those are the things we need to figure out. 

There are many benefits to the block schedule, but with change comes problems. It is not expected for the block schedule to exceed expectations, but it is a part of a bigger element that will change West Fargo High School for a long time.