Students react to new schedule

Nine period days, rapid-fire 45 minute classes, D-days and homework free D-nights have become hallmarks of the current Upper School schedule. But the familiar hectic days will be no more, as of next fall when the specially designed new schedule kicks in.
Under the new system, classes will last 75 minutes, students will eat lunch in either of two 30-minute periods, and 35 minutes of tutorial time will be allocated at the end of the day for students to meet with their teachers. The current x-period will remain the same. Other quirks of the new schedule include rotating class times and a late 8:45 AM start on Wednesdays.
The rationale for the new schedule largely revolves around minimizing passing time, as well as allotting more time for in-class activities like labs. At an informative assembly on Feb. 4, US Principal Chris Hughes explained the need to eliminate some of the many transitions included in the present schedule.
“When you’re taking… four classes: math, French, English, and orchestra, that’s four different languages you’re thinking in. And it takes time for anyone’s brain to switch between those languages, ” Hughes said.
While the reaction to the new schedule was generally favorable, some students voiced concerns about the longer class periods.
“I think it will definitely be harder for me to pay attention in my classes like science even though having longer science classes was one of the big reasons for the schedule change,” freshman Sabrina Brown said.
Freshman Will Donaldson had similar concerns. “I think that there’s going to be a lot of struggling with the longer classes, and think that will be a problem for a while, but we’ll get used to it,” he said.
Sophomore Tyler Seplak sees the longer periods as a welcome change.
“For every class as of right now, they say it’s 40 minutes long but it’s really 35 minutes,” Seplak said. “By the time class gets started, it’s already almost finished.”
US History teacher Mollie Ward, a member of the Scheduling Task Force that developed the new system, sees longer periods both as a challenge and an opportunity for teachers:
“If we tried to just hold a 75 minute discussion or I lectured for 75 minutes that would not only be a lost opportunity but a disaster for students and teachers. Teaching in extended periods takes thoughtful planning,” Ward said.
According to Ward, the new schedule will bring with it a fundamental change in the way classes are taught at SPA.
“There will be more emphasis on skills like finding information from reliable sources, thinking about it, making connections between eras and places, and looking for patterns.”
The new schedule provides opportunities beyond longer periods, however.
“[The new schedule] gives us the possibility to have more electives now that lunch will be its own period,” freshman Patrick Commers said.
While taking two electives in addition to five academic classes used to require a full schedule, it will now be possible to take up to seven classes while still having a free period every other day.
Possibly the greatest unknown quantity in the new schedule is the 35 minutes of tutorial time at the end of the day. In lieu of D-days, tutorial time will provide students with a chance to seek extra help. However, some feel that, with everybody out of class at once, teachers will be too busy to answer every question. Others fear that both coaches and teachers could both require their presence during tutorial time, leaving them torn between commitments.
Junior Sam Lodge hopes that senior privileges will extend to tutorial time.
The use of tutorial time will be explored by the US Life Committee as planning for next year moves forward.
“To be honest, as long as I can use [tutorial time] to leave school with senior privileges I’ll be happy,” Lodge said. “But if I really don’t understand any material in classes it will give me needed time to meet with certain teachers.”
Some students see tutorial time as a welcome change for getting work done at school. “I think that there will be a better balance,” freshman Calla Saunders said. “We won’t have school for eight hours and then go home and do homework for three hours; there will be a better balance between work and extracurriculars.”
Faculty also find the tutorial time to be an important addition in the schedule. “I really like the time as a community that we have together – for study, for meetings, for advisory, and I really like the common time for tutorial, I feel it’s a little bit like a university schedule,” US German teacher Jutta Crowder said. “However, there are still a lot of discussions that faculty and students have to have so that it works out for the best next year.”
The amount of work outside of school also represents an additional concern. “I am apprehensive about the amount of work that we are going to have to do,” freshman Anna Biggs said. “I know that we will have less homework, but they are going to expect more. However, I would rather have this schedule than [the current schedule].”
Overall consensus holds that the new schedule represents a promising change, retaining the best elements of the current system while expanding opportunities. Although the new setup may take some adjustment, soon the rotating 75-minute blocks will feel every bit as natural as having five classes before lunch.

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