Flex Block introduction has enhanced membership, operation of extracurricular activities, clubs at MHS
By Fatima Dahbani
Malden High School’s new-this-school-year Flex Block has proven to be a valuable asset to the extracurricular side of school community activities.
On “Gold” days, Flex Block is incorporated into the schedule where it’s a period divided into two time allotments: Enrichment session and Joy session. It’s when students can have time in their day for enrichment and support because, as MHS Principal Chris Mastrangelo and other administrators have acknowledged, school can be stressful for students. Flex is used by – and is very popular with students and staff – for a variety of reasons, and a key benefit is that previous “afterschool only” clubs are taking advantage of this block to find more time to meet.
“That was one of the key intents of the introduction of Flex Block this school year, as part of our major focus – as a school staff – on the social and emotional health of our students,” Malden High School Principal Chris Mastrangelo said. “We are very excited about the increased participation of many of our students, particularly our 9th and 10th graders, in our extracurricular clubs. They missed all of that when we were in remote learning mode.”
“The Flex Block lets our students and staff use their time during the school day for club and other activity meetings, leaving the afterschool time for even more support time for academics and other pursuits,” Mastrangelo added.
The MHS principal also noted that Superintendent Dr. Ligia Noriega-Murphy had instituted a grading policy for the new-this-year Flex Block so that students will receive academic credit and grades for their participation in the Flex Block program.
One newly formed group in particular that now uses Flex Block for its meeting time is the Spanish Heritage Club. “This club was designed by students… a group of students proposed the club and needed an advisor so I volunteered my Flex Block so that they could organize and run the club,” explained MHS Guidance Counselor Alison White, the club’s advisor.
“Because this club runs during Flex Block, it allows for students who may have other obligations after school to participate in a club during school hours,” White stated. “When the club was proposed, the students requested that it take place during Flex rather than after school.”
The club’s members are reasonably self-sufficient. They spent the previous cycle choosing themes they wanted to cover, playing games and making posters to hang around the building to promote the club.
Ray McKenzie, an MHS Special Education Math teacher and the advisor of the Literary Society, is also using Flex Block to enhance the operation of his extracurricular club. McKenzie said that he “spoke with Mr. [Ryan] Gallagher about taking over the Literary Society… It’s been a fun diversion from some of the stresses of this school year.”
“When a student approached me about advising The Oracle [the Literary Society’s annual magazine], he was the only returning member. Joy block seemed like a convenient and low stakes way to encourage students to participate on a trial basis,” McKenzie explained. He said he believes that artistic undertakings are an excellent method for kids to express themselves and share their perspectives. More students have the chance to learn about themselves and from one other by having a secure area where they may discuss their work.
The Yearbook Club is also utilizing Flex Block to meet. James Valente, who is the co-advisor, noted that “The Maldonian, like The Blue and Gold, is a class that meets on the schedule of assigned students…The idea of using the Flex Block to meet with those students as an extra way of getting the work done was always appealing.”
Valente added they needed the time to meet “so that the co-advisor to the class, [Beth] Horwitz could be in with the group where this year she is not in the actual course and she is vital to the course because she is the financial advisor and works with us to raise the $28,000 we need to make the yearbook.”
“We needed the time with our co-advisor to create fundraising opportunities for the yearbook,” Valente said.
Flex has overall been a great way for students to be productive and get extra academic help when they are not able to come after school.
Fatima Dahbani is a staff writer for “The Blue and Gold,” the Malden High School student newspaper. The Advocate’s Steve Freker contributed to this story.