Roundtable: What to do with the City Service Block


Courtesy of Public Domain Vectors.

Lily Brin ’23:

I am glad that the service block is currently being used as an extended office hours. I’m sure it is helpful for students who have had to quarantine or are otherwise needing to meet with teachers, and I believe that that time should remain mostly centered around helping those students. On the other hand, I think there are more productive uses of the extended office hours for students who are waiting around school before their extracurricular commitments who may not know how to utilize this time. Especially since the service block was used minimally when COVID wasn’t as surging as it is now, I think the school could offer virtual or individual service opportunities to supplement this lack. These options don’t even need to be affiliated with outside-of-school organizations. Instead, it could be a signup sheet for a limited amount of students to help out around the school where needed. This could be cleaning up hallways or helping teachers with various to-dos. I don’t currently know exactly what this looks like, but am interested to explore how this time could be used for students who are waiting around school after lunch.

Sam Goldwert ’25:

The Friends Select administration had the right idea with an extended office hours block, but the wrong execution. Especially during COVID-19 and the transition from distance learning into in-person school, many students, myself included, find themselves needing some extra support from teachers in certain subjects. The normal schedule includes one office hours block a week, which is only 30 minutes long on a Gold week schedule, or 45 minutes on a Brown week schedule, which is now being recognized as not enough time. However, the plan to include another office hours block in place of the city service block contains a few design flaws that sacrifice its potential effectiveness, such as the frequency, timing, and protocols surrounding this double period. Having an 80-minute office hours block on a Gold Wednesday in addition to the normal 30-minute block means that almost half of the school day (not including the late start, assembly block, or lunch) is set aside for office hours. This uneven dispersion of the office hours time over the 10-day schedule can be very inconvenient for students who run into multiple schoolwork-related problems during a Brown week or the second half of a Gold week. In addition to this, students are currently being asked to go home at 1:00 PM if they have no school-affiliated obligations, and subsequently to Zoom with a teacher from home from 1:50 – 3:10 if they need help. This can be problematic for students with long commutes to and from school, students who are responsible for a younger sibling in the lower or middle school, students who have problems with internet access at home, and more, plus students who may be working on a group assignment with a student who has any of the previously stated conflicts. In short, I think that the upper school does need more time for office hours, but not in the place of the Gold Wednesday service block. As for filling this double period, I think that another advisory period, an activity period with the advisory or grade, or even an in-person office hours period would better suit the needs of the students than the virtual office hours setup that we currently have. 

Patrick Ryan ’24:

Gold Wednesdays are, as they currently stand, an entire day in the school week with only two classes. In many of my classes, bad scheduling has been a contributing factor to a lack of progress and understanding. In math, for example, we are a chapter behind where we planned to be at this point in the year. While a complete reformation of the schedule should happen, using these empty periods as additional class time would be most beneficial to the Friends Select community. The double period in the afternoons could be formatted similarly to the X and Y block periods on Brown Wednesdays, splitting the double into two single length periods. Alternatively, all the double periods on Gold Wednesdays could be split into two single-length classes, allowing for all classes to meet more frequently. Regardless of how the day is broken up, classes need to meet more frequently, and adding more frequent meeting times to schedule can remedy that issue. 

Margot Schneider ’22:

Though in-person service is limited due to safety concerns, I don’t believe that all options are off-limits. Just last semester, Friends Select students participated in myriad service projects in the school building, including phone-banking for the Senior Food Box Program (for seniors) and blanket making for the Hub of Hope project (sophomores). Fortunately, during the age of Covid, many virtual or more accessible service opportunities have arisen. I believe Friends Select could easily take steps to involve itself in projects like phone banking, tutoring or providing peer support via Zoom, transcribing, editing, writing documents or educational materials, and so much more

Zoe Siegel ’24:

The city curriculum block was an exciting addition to this year’s schedule. However, I’ve found it rather disappointing in its execution, especially since Covid has prevented us from doing much in-person service. So far, the 10th grade has done just two service activities, blanket making and filling care bags. While these were both successful service projects, I feel like that hour and twenty minutes could be spent doing something more productive. As unpopular as I know this opinion is, I feel like Wednesdays could use more class blocks. After P.E. started for the 10th grade, my first class on Gold Wednesdays has changed from Peace and Social Justice to a really long study hall. Since 10th graders are required to be in attendance during study halls, it feels like a waste of the day having to come in at 9 am but only having one class from 11:40-1:00. There are also several classes where students are struggling to stay on pace with the work, so I believe that these classes would definitely benefit from meeting more than three times a week, especially classes like math or foreign language. Until we’re able to use the city curriculum block more effectively, I think having a more regular schedule on Wednesdays would help keep classes on track and reduce the need to rush through the material.