No new schedule on the schedule

Diana Roy, Editorial Board

Modifications to Algonquin’s 2015-2016 school year schedule are halfway through consideration as a round of voting within administration effectively lowered the number of proposed schedules from 12 to six.

The array of proposals all started with the idea of how the school could change the schedule in order to better address sleep concerns; the Flexible Learning Block, suggested by the superintendent, helped inspire the conversation.

“We put out a survey to faculty and asked them to make a choice of several alternative schedules,” Principal Thomas Mead said. “[Then] we’ll take a look at the results of the survey and if there are some clear favorites, we’ll send out a second survey.”

If in the second round of voting there is indecision regarding the remaining schedules, which will also compete against the current schedule, administration will have to make a decision.

“Our first question would be if we should stay with what we have now,” Mead said, who reviews the various proposals with the teacher’s union.

Among the remaining proposals are those by Burdette, Welty, and math teacher Sean McGrath.

Proposals such as McGrath’s are a rotational schedule, meaning that the periods rotate each week, rather than sticking to the same order everyday.

“A [rotating block schedule] is a good idea in that you don’t have the same periods everyday,” Burdette said. “[But] there are kids with extenuating circumstances that come on a reduced schedule that might not handle a different schedule everyday very well.”

A proposal like Welty’s is a rotating block schedule with four 85 minute periods a day; along with the addition of an eighth period, the order of classes within the day and week may change, but it will all stay in the same set start time parameters as the current schedule.

“I want to keep it simple because some schedules may be hard to remember [the times] with the rotation’s,” Welty said. “Four periods a day would mean only four homework’s a day, [and] you [would] know when [class] starts and ends, [so] there’s a comfortability there.”

Burdette’s proposal features a change in the normal routine by allowing fifth period a double block on Wednesday.

“I thought it would be beneficial for period five to have a double, [because] there is this perception that fifth period has to be lunch and [left] untouched,” Burdette said. “[Additionally], fifth period always gets the short end of the stick, especially with second lunch, [because] it’s hard to get back into the flow [of things].”

With respect to the remaining proposals, “[the] schedules that we’re looking at are very restricted to 7:20 to 1:50,” Mead said. “[Personally] I’d like to change the time [so we] start at 8:30 and end at 3:30.”

According to Mead, this later start time would be more consistent with the biological development of teenagers and their sleep cycles, and would create a number of positive impacts on student performance.

However, because of financial reasons and busing schedules, a later start time is unlikely to be implemented.

“The thought is that [a later start time] will allow teens to be more alert, and more willing to engage in the student learning process,” Mead said.

Some proposals, such as the Flexible Learning Block, aim to address this particular problem without changing the current school hours.

With 20-25 minutes of free time at the start of the day, it creates a variety of different activities that could happen; students have the opportunity to go to the library, do unfinished homework, or talk with their classmates.

If the schedule were to be invoked, the 45-minute periods would be cut to 43-44 minutes, passing times would be cut from five minutes to four minutes, and lunch times would be lowered to a 22-23 minute session.

“In theory, [the Flexible Learning Block] is a good idea,” McGrath said. “But students who take the bus will have to be the one’s who are [at school] earlier than those who can walk or drive.”

“My biggest criticism is how [faculty is] going to cover the same amount of curriculum in the school year, but with less time to do it,” Burdette said. “The end result would be more homework for kids, which would mean more stress [and] less sleep.”

In terms of the various proposals, “each schedule has ‘strengths and weaknesses,’” Mead said. “[And] each tries to address the shortcomings of the schedule now.”

“I’ve taught at two schools before Algonquin, and this has been the busiest schedule [I’ve seen],” Welty said. “You see every [class] on Monday, but then the class times are always different for the rest of the week.”

“One drawback is if you have a first period class, then you have it four mornings a week,” McGrath said. “If you’re not a morning person, [then] you may find it difficult to pay attention, [and] same goes with the afternoon.”

In the end, “everyone’s [just] trying to improve student learning,” Burdette said. “[But] we shouldn’t rush to change the schedule for the sake of changing it.”
Although, “it’s certainly possible that no changes will be made at all,” Mead said.