Block Schedule & Vincentian Day Colloquium
2021-22 Bell Schedule Question and Answer Session for Parents
REVIEW THE CHAT
April 23, 2021
As we announced earlier this spring, DePaul Prep will open in the fall for all grade levels, five days per week, unless public health officials prohibit a full return. Given our experience with a modified block schedule this year, the faculty and I have been researching a variety of bell schedules to understand how different schedules pose different learning opportunities for students and how these schedules support teachers as well. A Teacher Schedule Committee was established, with representatives from each content area who met to share research, discuss, and then solicit feedback from their department team members. Once a draft schedule was formed, student input was solicited via a Student Focus group where a random selection of 24 students previewed the draft schedule and offered their thoughts and suggestions about how to improve this. In general, we were happy to see that students approved of our draft schedule.
Introduction to New Bell Schedule for 2021-22
Now that our process is concluded, we are ready to share two specific announcements with our parent community regarding the bell schedule for the upcoming school year. We share this information with you with the following in mind:
- In our 7 years of existence, DePaul Prep has had two homes: One at the Fr. Gordon campus and one at our new campus. We have now transitioned to our own new campus and have created a new brand identity and logo to match our new environment. After renovations this summer, we will occupy the east wing of the Academic Center which will feature 19 more classrooms, a library and conference center, a black box theater and temporary weight room.
- We are now interested in further solidifying our identity and making the transition from a ‘new school’ to an ‘established school’ with a distinct model that sets us aside from other schools and that will serve our students and faculty for many years to come.
- With the start of the Pandemic last March and the Civic Uprising of Summer 2020, we were forced to make further technical changes to our schedule and instructional program. We are conscious of the fact that our pace of change can cause a type of fatigue. We look to remedy this by putting in place a schedule and instructional model that will serve our community for years to come.
Additionally, we believe that our world is a different place than it was just 13 months ago. The pandemic has pushed us to think about our lives differently. This past summer’s civil unrest was a call to action. We can not return to ‘what was’ any longer.
The work ahead of us necessitates that we continue to create an inclusive culture where all student voices are heard and where each student has a strong sense of belonging and connection. Our mission to create an educated, just and compassionate world, one student at a time, has never been more important as the need to dismantle racism in our city and our country remains a priority. In short, our students will need to be equipped differently to move into their adult lives as change agents, continually asking St. Vincent's question of "What must be done?"
- Holistic: Vincentian education seeks to respond to the intellectual, spiritual, moral, and affective needs of students-- educating the heart as well as the head.
- Integrated: Vincentian education blends the humanistic and the professional, the abstract and the practical.
- Creative: Vincentian education is ever seeking new or renewed ways to meet changing needs among the student population while maintaining a clear 'sense of the possible.'
- Flexible: Vincentian education is willing to make the effort to adapt to the needs of the non-traditional student
With this context set, we now introduce to you the two changes to our 2021-22 bell schedule.
First, we will adopt a Block Schedule. The defining features of our block schedule include a rotating schedule where students and teachers attend 4 of their 8 classes per day (rather than all 8) and where class periods are 80 minutes in length. This schedule provides distinct advantages to our students:
- Longer class periods allow for a wider range of instructional strategies to be used with students as well as more opportunities for personalized and small group instruction
- A longer class period is more reflective of university level courses and prepares students for this model while in high school
- An 8 period schedule allows students to have an additional course or study hall added to their schedule to expand opportunities to take an academic or STEAM elective; Students will register for their additional course during Advisories in May
- Fewer classes per day allows for fewer transitions each day
The Block Schedule we will use is seen here. See below for an explanation of each day and schedule:
Blue Day, Red Day
These days will alternate throughout the entirety of the school year and will be our normal daily schedule. Class periods are 80 minutes long and students will have a period for lunch/study hall/co-curricular activities that is 60 minutes long.
Blue Ram Day, Red Ram Day
This schedule will alternate with our Vincentian Day Wednesday Schedule and will be used for days where Mass, assemblies or a pep rally will be held.
Every other Wednesday, we will implement this model. Please see the introduction to Vincentian Day below.
Introduction to Vincentian Day
We are excited to share with our parents and students our second change for the 2021-22 school year, a new learning structure that we will implement at the start of the year called Vincentian Day. Vincentian Day will consist of a semester-long opportunity for students to engage with other students and a faculty member around a topic that is of great interest to them and that they might otherwise not have a chance to learn about within our typical school day and with DePaul Prep classmates and teachers.
Vincentian Day is designed to engage students' intellectual curiosity and expand their knowledge base by introducing them to new areas of interest and lifelong learning. With Chicago as our classroom, these seminars will provide opportunities for our students to learn about the arts, sciences, and other cultures through the City's many museums, arts spaces and experiential learning opportunities taught by our faculty.
Our Vincentian Day was designed with a clear purpose in mind. Namely, to increase opportunities for:
- Learning experiences rooted in our Core Values
- Authentic learning based on student choice and agency
- Student leadership in leading Seminars with faculty members
- Time and space to address and discuss broader issues impacting our community in the arts, social justice and experiential learning
- Opportunities to spark intellectual curiosity and Vincentian inspired values that will prepare students for college and life.
- Deeper understanding of different perspectives based on our individual identities
- Positive student connections across grade level, gender, race, faiths and identity - with peers and adults
- Development of essential social emotional skill competencies
Students will have 8 opportunities to engage in a variety of seminars over the course of 4 years, adding to the richness of our DePaul Prep college preparatory curriculum and learning experiences. We anticipate that not only will students enjoy these seminars but they will also set students apart from peers when colleges and universities review their transcripts to see the range of learning that our students engaged in while in high school.
Vincentian Day will look different than a typical school day. Here are some of the design details:
- Scheduled on every other Wednesday from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. for a semester
- Individual ‘courses’ designed around a specific topic, taught by a faculty member or pair of faculty members and connected to our Core Values
- Seminars take place both on campus and may also travel off campus, using the City of Chicago, its museums, theaters and cultural institutions as our classroom
- Students choose to register for their top 5-7 Seminars at the end of each semester for the upcoming semester.
- Seminars do not include grades or homework or assessment
Vincentian Day meets our need to create intentional opportunities across our student body to build relationships *outside of academics* so we can maintain the community feel that we feel is so unique to DePaul Prep. Vincentian Day is designed to capture both the spirit and mind of our students, engaging them in learning that is qualitatively different from the learning done in classrooms but that is equally important to our student's growth and development into young adults.
Additionally, Vincentian Day provides opportunities for enrichment and for students who struggle academically, or who face historical marginalization in school, or who just feel like they don't "fit" with school via academics to still find a space to connect with an adult and like-minded students during the school day.
During the mornings of Vincentian Day, two activities will happen:
- Faculty will be engaged in professional development and department collaboration from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m.
- In addition, one grade level per Vincentian Day will be on campus from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. for their Advisory program. [A schedule of when each grade level comes to campus for the 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. time frame will be published shortly.] If your child’s grade level is NOT scheduled for a particular week of Advisory programming, those students will then be expected to arrive on campus by 11:45 a.m. in time for their Vincentian Day Seminar. Our Dining Hall will be open for students who wish to arrive prior to 11:45 a.m. to eat lunch with friends or to study.
A Final Note about Vincentian Day and our Block Schedule
With the implementation of Vincentian Day, the number of instructional minutes that students would receive under a more traditional 8 period day remains the same. This aspect of the block schedule was carefully considered by our faculty and administrative team. Many, many high schools across the country use a block schedule similar to ours. In fact, two neighboring schools, Walter Payton and NorthSide College Prep use both a block schedule and have implemented a learning model similar to our Vincentian Day. We are confident that these two new changes will enrich and strengthen our total academic program and provide even more opportunity for student success at DePaul Prep.
Vincentian Days for Fall Semester 2021
|Wednesday, September 8||Wednesday, November 3|
|Wednesday, September 22||Wednesday, November 17|
|Wednesday, October 6||Wednesday, December 1|
|Wednesday, October 20|
Please note: We will provide information on the dates for each grade level to be on campus by 8:00 a.m. for our Advisory Program during a Vincentian Day at an upcoming date.
With any questions about the new 2021-22 Bell Schedule, the block schedule, or Vincentian Day colloquium model, please reach out to:
Dr. Megan Stanton-Anderson