Cons to 85-Minute Classes at BHS

Abby Creedon, Staff Writer

This Fall, Barnstable High School adapted its schedule due to the challenges presented by Covid-19. One of the adaptations that was made was turning our once 50-minute classes into 85-minutes. While there are students that have been adjusting comfortably to these new class periods, others have faced more difficulty. Some students experience significant difficulty sitting through, and staying focused during, these extended minutes. I am one of those students. I have been experiencing many issues with this new schedule because I am so accustomed to the typical 50-minute class length. 

After existing in the remote world for months before the beginning of school this year, I think that the implementation of 85-minute classes was a poor choice to ease students back into this school year, which already was so different and challenging in so many other ways. Students’ attention spans are currently shorter than ever. I have found it to be quite a unique and separate new challenge to try to retain the amount of additional information that teachers are compelled to include in their daily lesson plans to fill this new, longer class period. After the clock surpasses the typical time, I find myself growing restless, losing interest in the topic and ready to give up everything on which I had been focusing. I would prefer shorter or normal class periods, which allow my mind to stay active and engaged in the subject matter throughout the duration of the class timefor the most part of course.

While it is true that most teachers do permit built-in mask breaks during these longer class times to allow students to take a break from their masks and breathe, these breaks are problematic in their own right and come with drawbacks that outweigh their benefits. I’m all for the breaks to refresh the mind as it allows students to restore their focus and take a break from the stress they endure during the school day, but I believe that mask breaks should be taken either at the beginning or end of each class.  Mask breaks in the middle of a class after time has been expended to settle in and direct attention to the work of the class, tend to disrupt focus and engagement. After such a break, I often find it to be considerably more difficult to restore focus and attention back onto my work. With a mask break situated instead at the beginning or end of each class, such breaks would not distract students from getting their work done or interrupt teachers in the middle of their lesson plans. 

Difficult enough as it is to learn in a setting where we are required to remain no less than six feet from our peers, 85-minute classes without a change in environment is less stimulating for students and is more likely to sap student interest and their availability for learning. This is especially hard with some teachers keeping students cooped up in their seats for the entirety of the extended class length. Personally, I have a tendency to get fidgety and lose focus. When shorter class lengths were implemented, students were able to complete 5-6 classes per day. The constant change in environment was more effective for me as it afforded me an opportunity to spend less time in less enjoyable classes or those from which I simply needed a break. 

As a kinesthetic learner who benefits from hands-on learning, the longer classes aren’t for me. They may have a positive impact on some students, but it’s going to take me some time to fully adapt to this new schedule. For now, I am going to work on ways to maintain focus during the 85-minute class periods and hopefully, we will be able to convert back to the normal schedule in the future.

**See Philip Randazzo’s story on what he believes to be the pros to 85-minute classes.