Webster Groves High School changed the schedule yet again this year.
There is a minimum of three different schedules in one school week. A typical week is set up as A Days Monday and Tuesday, a B-day on Wednesday, a C day on Thursday, and another A Day on Friday. However, another schedule that occurs frequently is the Late Start A Day, which is followed on Mondays that the school has a late start, which happens two to three times a month.
On A Days, students go to all of their classes for 51 minutes. On Late Start A Days, students arrive at school at 9:15 and attend all seven classes for 44 minutes each. On B Days, students attend their odd-numbered class hours for 93 minutes. On C days, students attend their three even-numbered classes, and a 30 minute advisory period, followed by two 30 minute academic networking periods.
In an email from Matt Irvin, advisory is described as “A dedicated block of time when a small group of students meets the same faculty member. The focus is social-emotional learning but can include academic counseling and support. Advisories are convened weekly with long-term continuity–enabling honest, trusted discussion.”
In the same email, academic networking is described to be used “to allow students to pursue academic work, receive extra help, make up missed assignments and tests, study and receive interventions, and increase the overall contact time between teachers and students.”
The goal of this schedule is to provide access to intervention or supporting adult time, to make the schedule more evenly divided each week than it was with the previous schedule, to allow more time for creativity, projects, labs, or assessments, and to provide additional time for students to work on homework.
English teacher Melissa Rainey strongly opposes this schedule. She feels that it doesn’t allow students enough time to get done everything that they are expected to do in a day, and that the schedule is too rushed.
“Lunch is only 25 minutes, which is not enough time for juniors and seniors to leave campus to go get food and come back, which they are strongly encouraged to do,” Rainey explained.
Seniors Keith Fisher and Londin Furfaro also agreed that lunch is not long enough. Furfaro said that, as a senior, she was encouraged to leave for lunch in order to make sure that the school is able to maintain social distancing during lunch and remain COVID-safe; however, she feels she does not have enough time to make it back to class on time when she leaves for lunch.
“If kids want to go home to get lunch, by the time they get home, it’s already time for us to get back to the school,” Furfaro explained, “and I live like right by the school, but when I went home, I had no time.”
“I have enough time to get somewhere that’s reasonable, get the food, but not eat it,” Fisher explained. Fisher added that lunch is the only break in the school day, and that it is not enough time for students to have a mental break before returning to class. Fisher noted that he understands that there are COVID concerns regarding masks, eating indoors and exposure time, but feels that a longer lunch would be worth having to remove and replace a mask while eating lunch.
Rainey describes A days as “grueling,” and expresses concern for the increased workload that is placed on students by going to every class on those days.
However, chemistry teacher Kyle Lockos actually prefers A Days.
“I see every class and we learn a little bit every day instead of massive amounts at once. Inch by inch learning is a cinch, yard by yard learning is hard,” Lockos wrote over email.
“I have students telling me they’re doing homework until one in the morning,” Rainey said.
Rainey has not only noticed the effect of this schedule on her students, but on herself and her fellow teachers as well.
“It’s [the schedule] not very student-friendly, which makes it not very teacher-friendly,” Rainey stated.
“The hardest part of this schedule for teachers is that it is now Nov. 5, and I still don’t know the schedule because it changes so often,” Rainey said. She went on to explain that this makes it difficult to create lesson plans and teach.
“When we deliver a lesson plan, time is very important. We have to know what time period we’re going to be teaching it in, and that changes constantly,” Rainey explained.
Rainey added that not every hour gets a longer block class because, on B and C days, some fourth and fifth-hour classes get split in half for lunch. This alters the lesson plan for those classes as well.
“I either don’t have enough time because we only have 40 minutes maybe on the late start days, and then we get to the hour and a half, and I have too much time. It’s like I don’t know how to plan, and I’ve been teaching for 18 years, and it is chaos; it is pure chaos,” Rainey added.
One part of the schedule that Rainey does like is academic networking, although she does think it could use some adjustments.
“Academic networking, I think, is amazing, and I wish students had more freedom to go take care of what they needed to take care of when they needed to take care of it, so instead of being stuck in one person’s room for the duration of an academic networking period, if you get something done and you’re ready to go see someone else, you should be allowed to go,” Rainey said.
“Not every room has a computer, so you can’t get work done,” Rainey said about students who remain in their advisory room during academic networking.
Senior Taylor Clifton agreed that the idea of Academic Networking is good, but the execution is not quite there. She said that while sitting in her advisory class during academic networking, she feels she is wasting time.
“It’s just a waste of time for me which is frustrating,” Clifton said.
Furfaro, however, feels that academic networking was a great addition to the schedule. She feels that she is productive during that time.
“It’s definitely helpful, especially like, when I had COVID, and I came back. I was able to use a lot of that time to catch up with my teachers because it was hard. I couldn’t come into school before and after school every single day because I was still recovering,” Furfaro said.
“Consistency is really important right now with us coming back from COVID and the virtual learning, it’s a big adjustment, and so always feeling lost in your day is not a good way to learn or teach,” Rainey said.
Clifton also has an issue with the inconsistency of the schedule. She feels that there is a lack of communication and consistency with late starts and block days.
“The constant changing of start and class times feels like a disruption. I can imagine some people love the constant changes in times for their classes, for me, it feels like I have whiplash. I like consistency with time schedules,” Lockos wrote.
Fisher, Furfaro, and Clifton all prefer B or C days to A days. Senior Sydney Harp, however, prefers A days.
“No one wants to be in a class for an hour and a half,” Harp said. She feels that most of the work assigned in these longer class periods is just busywork that is used to fill time. Harp feels that she and her peers are unable to focus for such a long time.
“As a teacher, I’m trying to do things to ameliorate the issues the schedule creates,” Rainey said. Rainey walks her students down to lunch so that they are there when the bell rings, and they have time to go through the lunch line.
The empathy that teachers like Rainey have for their students is reflected by students’ empathy for their teachers.
“I think it’s just stressing teachers out. They seem like they’re really overwhelmed with how many times the schedule has switched and how many times they’ve had to readjust their teaching,” Harp said.
This will be Emily Goben’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.