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Lake Forest High School considers overhauling school day

SheanHermann Lake Bluff fills out questisubmissicommunity informatisessiWednesday Jan. 26 proposed new block scheduling Lake Forest High School. | LindBlaser/Sun-Times Media

Sheana Hermann of Lake Bluff fills out a question submission at the community information session on Wednesday, Jan. 26, on the proposed new block scheduling at Lake Forest High School. | Linda Blaser/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 7, 2014 12:43PM

Changing from a traditional daily schedule to a more flexible block format has become the hot topic at Lake Forest High School, where officials hope to make the switch for the 2014-15 school year in an effort to incorporate more time for collaboration and extended learning.

The school recently held parent and student information sessions attended by about 150 people to explain the rationale behind the four options listed on the school’s website,, and answer questions.

One of the four schedules will be selected by the school’s and District 115 leadership teams in consultation with the Board of Education. The Lake Forest Education Association, the union that represents the teachers, will vote on the proposed schedule.

The final selection is expected to come before the School Board for a vote by Tuesday, Feb. 11.

The community is encouraged to share feedback on one or more of the schedules at

“This is not about fixing a broken school,” Principal Barry Rodgers said. “It’s about how do we take an excellent school and make it better.”

Preparing Lake Forest High School students to be leaders in the 21st-century economy requires new teaching formats with a strong emphasis on collaboration, he said.

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you work with others and how you work with others on a team to get better,” Rodgers said. “You have to be an agile learner, you have to be an agile thinker, you have to continuously collaborate for change.”

Northern Illinois high schools on block schedules include: Deerfield and Highland Park high schools; Glenbrook North, with Glenbrook South switching in the fall; University of Chicago Laboratory Schools; Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy; and Northside College Preparatory High School, where Rodgers worked before joining Lake Forest High School in 2013.

The current Lake Forest High School schedule — eight 50-minute periods every day — does not allow for group work, one-on-one instruction with teachers or work on extracurricular activities, such as school plays, during the school day.

Switching to a block schedule would change that and open opportunities for teachers and administrators to meet and explore cross-curricular possibilities and make it possible for large-group or whole-school learning events.

“The existing schedule dates back to the Industrial Revolution,” Rodgers said. “The workplace has changed. Schools have changed. The way people work has changed.”

The state’s elimination of the physical education waiver for freshmen and sophomores also is driving the district to look at a new schedule.

The longer blocks of 75- to 90-minutes that meet two or three times a week are set up much like a college schedule and will provide more time for incorporating technology into instruction and, in the case of science classes, a greater chance to complete and even re-do experiments in-class.

“It makes it more real,” Jim Sullivan, science department chairman, said.

Lauren Basgall, 16, a junior from Lake Forest, asked if a 90-minute class period would result in a 90-minute lecture.

“A block schedule effectively kills the lecture,” Rodgers said.

Andrew Walther, 14, an eighth-grader at Deer Path Middle School who will attend Lake Forest High School in the fall, said after the presentation that he’s excited about the longer, enhanced learning periods in the proposed schedules and the opportunity to get work done during the school day “instead of having tons of homework.”

His mom, Leanna Walther, was part of a new wave in block scheduling when she attended middle school.

“It was a brand-new concept then,” she said. “I think there’s merit to the concept and what they’re trying to do.”

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