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Three years ago Collegiate underwent a change more drastic than new construction. The 2014-2015 school year brought completely new schedules to the Upper and Middle Schools. Due to growing frustration with the frequent special schedules due to special speakers, events such as Pep Rally, and snow days, the leaders of the school at the time searched for a different schedule. While their intentions were sound, and the consulting company they hired reputable, there are still concerns about the current schedule’s viability, and discussions are underway to look for solutions to certain challenges.
If you discuss the current schedule with Collegiate students, their frustration quickly becomes evident. When asked what they did not like, they offered a variety of complaints. Will Hidell (’17) lamented the fact that teachers had to work very hard to keep their classes together, stating that one issue is “Keeping their classes together with the schedule that gives certain periods more time than others. I’ve had math classes in the past in which we were behind other classes. This not only puts much more outside work for the students but more strategizing from the teachers.”
Michael Warker (’17) believes we are too reliant on the Middle School and rely on them more than we would like to admit, saying, “Many arts classes have to change their plans due to having both Middle School classes and Upper School classes during the same time period.” He also told me that sometimes Middle and Upper school chorus falls at the same time, creating a tough situation for both the Middle and Upper School choir participants. Gillian Laming (’17) said, “I don’t really understand the purpose of flex day [Day 8]. Sometimes I like flex day because it’s a nice break from normal days and classes go by quickly, but the night before is terrible because we have to do [homework] for all of our classes. I also don’t like how classes always go in the same order (besides flex). I have my sciences back-to-back, which can be tiring sometimes.”
The complaints about the schedule are not limited to seniors. Some students at every grade level struggle with the schedule. Some juniors expressed frustration at the relatively short lunches (30 minutes) and lack of free time. Teachers also find the schedule difficult to navigate. Rob Wedge, an Economics and government teacher in the Upper School, said, “Collegiate prides itself and sells itself on relationships between students and teachers. The schedule for the last three years does not allow those relationships to foster and grow.”
I find the schedule very frustrating for a few reasons. We still have special schedules, on days such as Pep Rally and Convocation, something that the “new” schedule was supposed to greatly reduce. Fridays can also be difficult, as the assembly/flex time we have every other day of the week (10:50 a.m.-11:40 a.m.) is used for a class. This is meant to help limit the amount of class time students miss because of sports dismissals on Friday afternoons. Yet a student or teacher may have class straight through from 8:35 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. without a single break, making some Fridays very difficult.
While the current schedule is certainly lacking in many key areas, it does have advantages for the students and teachers. One benefit of the schedule is the fact that we do not have every class every day, with the exception of Day 8. This was the case on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays in the previous schedule (as seen in the 2013-14 schedule grid above), which the current senior class experienced as freshmen. Class rotation reduces the amount of nightly work, as well as allowing students more time to review material they learned in class that day. Many people also mentioned the extra 30 minutes in the morning designated as Extra Help time, something that allows students to get more sleep and/or visit with teachers for extra help. However, despite these positives, Collegiate is trying to redesign the schedule, with plans of rolling out a new Upper School schedule in 2017.
Interested in what Collegiate was considering as they go about re-evaluating the Upper School schedule, I sat down and talked to Sarah Baker, the Assistant Head of the Upper School and a member of the faculty scheduling committee, which consists of leaders and administrators from the Upper and Middle School. As someone who is completely new to Collegiate and its schedule, she said that as a teacher she likes the hour and twenty minute block classes, but that she feels challenged by not knowing what is coming next in her day. While the scheduling committee is still in the early stages of the process of moving toward a new schedule, she offered insight into the process and what the school is considering as they build a new schedule. We talked about breaks in between classes, such as the five-minute passing time that disappeared in 2014. This time was also referred to as “micro-breaks.” While the school has not made a determination if those will be in the schedule next year, she did say “there is a gathering of steam behind [micro breaks].” On the topic of flex days, Baker said, “One thing that I anticipate is that we will consider flex day closely, looking especially at how it affects student and faculty wellness and productivity.” The school has been holding scheduling feedback meetings, with both faculty and students, to determine what the school should be considering as they move forward with scheduling. I was part of one of these meetings, and I found that Baker and Upper School Director of Student Life Beth Kondorossy asked my group very comprehensive questions along the lines of, “What do you need?” and “What do your teachers need?”
While it is easy to point out the flaws of any schedule, making suggestions for improvements is much more difficult. However, everyone I talked to had some kind of suggestion to improve the schedule. Hidell said he would like to have passing time between classes, something that would reduce the pressure on both the student and teacher, in that they would have time to have a quick chat or use the bathroom. Laming said that she would like to see more collaborative time to work on labs and projects. Personally, I would like to see the Extra Help time moved to the end of the day, as it would help reduce the amount of class time that students miss due to sports. I would also like to see more streamlined start times, something that would help reduce tardiness. While any schedule will never be perfect, I am hopeful that the schedule that will be implemented next year will improve the lives of both the students and faculty.