Class conflicts vex students

Costa Mesa High explores the advantages of block scheduling, which offers more flexibility, but teachers remain unconvinced.

November 01, 2013|By Hannah Fry

Several students at Costa Mesa High School are pondering a question that could affect the next four years of their education.

Does Advanced Placement calculus or marching band look more impressive on a college application?

Students at Mesa are forced each year to choose between courses that they feel are necessary for college admission, such as AP calculus, and classes they are passionate about, like marching band, because they are scheduled during the same period, said art teacher Kirby Piazza.

After spending three years involved in band, one student entering her senior year was tasked with deciding between her passion and an AP course.


"What a thing to have on your resume, you were in the marching band," Piazza said. "The student felt she needed AP calculus to go to college as well. The students shouldn't have to make that choice."

However, the situation isn't without remedy, Piazza said.

For three years, teachers and administrators at Mesa have discussed moving away from a traditional bell schedule to a block schedule.

However, the administration hasn't yet been able to garner enough support from teachers to make the change, said Principal Phil D'Agostino.

With traditional bell schedules, like those used by Mesa and Corona del Mar High School, students attend six classes of 57 minutes each, each day of the school week.

The block schedule that Newport Harbor and Estancia high schools use allow students to take eight classes a week. Students have four classes per day for an hour and a half each, meaning classes are longer but they don't meet daily.

Block schedules allow administrators more flexibility in scheduling classes, resulting in fewer class conflicts for students, D'Agostino said.

"If you can carve the day into more chunks, you can offer more sections of certain classes," he said.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board recently adopted priorities for this year, with one of the main goals being to prepare students for college and careers after high school.

"Given the board's priorities, we are going to face challenges in being able to get every kid the classes they need," D'Agostino said. "We will make it happen no matter what, but there are some schedules that are more flexible."

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