Schedule subject to change

Belle Hattingh, left, and Maggie Burke sit in front of a proposal for a new schedule during parent teacher conferences. —Dr. Natalie Munn

By Mackenzie Condon and Alicja Vickers

Students, teachers, and administrators have begun discussions that could have far-reaching implications for the regional high school’s daily schedule.

The schedule is currently an eight-block rotation of four 85-minute classes a day, preceded by a four-minute homeroom period. In the past, school leaders discussed altering the schedule, although no changes were ever made. This time the movement to change the schedule comes from a group of students organized by chemistry teacher Natalie Munn. The list of changes that were proposed to the school committee in early November started as an Advanced Placement Chemistry project last spring.

One current proposal explores both the need and logistics for a common work period. This period would serve as a time when all teachers are available to answer questions or administer tests, a time to pursue a passion or an independent project, and a built-in time to do homework, which would help students with afterschool commitments to stay ahead of their work. The proposal also explores shortening the 85-minute class periods that meet every other day to 55-minute classes that meet every day. It also calls for abolishment of the homeroom period that meets each morning for four minutes.These ideas were shared at a school committee meeting by junior Kat Roberts and senior Emma Kristal.

“Emma Kristal and I went to the meeting, and we found that the committee was open to the idea of a new schedule, and said it was a solid, well-put-together plan. Of course the logistics of it all would need to be worked out, but it was definitely something to look forward to in the near future,” Kat said.

Some parents want the school to keep the four-block days. They worry that teachers won’t hold back homework, so the homework load would be ridiculous. Some students were also ambivalent about the possible changes. Junior Ricardo Andrade said, “The new schedule goes against the students. If all my classes are in one day, that’s too much homework for me to get done all in one night.”

Sophomore Dylan Ebanks said, “There wouldn’t be enough time for electives like gym or crafts, where you need time to get ready or clean up. If anything, they should keep the schedule, and just eliminate homeroom.”

Emma Kristal, however, disagreed. She said, “It would also give all students, who may not have room in their schedule to have a free period, access to the school’s resources. The changed schedule could open up opportunities for students to take more electives or academics, but still give them a time to work so the load and stress is not as much.”

History teacher Olsen Houghton commented on the outstanding fear of having every class every day meaning double the homework. He said, “I don’t think that idea is true at all. The curriculum that we as teachers have to get through by the end of the year stays the same with any of these changes. The homework that would presently be due next class, two days from now, would be split in half, with each portion given on its own day.”

English teacher Bill McCarthy also spoke about the proposal. He said, “I think in some cases there is a need for longer blocks. When we are writing in class, it can be important to have a good length of time. However, as class goes on throughout an 85-minute block, there is a loss of intensity. It just isn’t the same toward the end as it is when the kids are fresh in the first half or so.”

Mr. McCarthy also commented on the proposition to drop homeroom. He said, “I do believe that through all four years there should be a home for the students in the school, and that the homeroom block can serve this purpose.”

Principal Sara Dingledy said, “There are challenges with any configuration. With the alternating long blocks, I see challenges with engaging students over a long period of time, and often ninth and tenth graders need breaks to move a bit. That can have an overall impact on instructional time over the course of the year. I think some classes struggle with not seeing students for large chunks of time if there is an absence for sports or sickness. It becomes challenging to build routines with classes.”

Ms. Dingledy also shared insight on the topic of homeroom. She said, “I love the idea of a home base for students and teachers that lasts for four years. I would imagine that to do this well, we would need more than four minutes a day. I think there are opportunities to build on this idea and have a place for it to live meaningfully in the schedule.”

In terms of the future of the many possibilities of change, Ms. Dingledy said, “All changes do not need to be made at once. I envision a process by which we have the students complete their research and feedback-gathering by the holiday break in December. Then a team of staff members takes the research and compiles a recommendation for this year, and presents it to the admin team in March. Later, the administration presents the recommendation to the school council and school committee to move forward for next year.”

By Mackenzie Condon