Administration considers early start to ease swift AP classes’ pace

Kevin Huang
AP U.S. History teacher Sue Nellis lectures about Abraham Lincoln’s impact during the Civil War. Nellis, during her time as head of high school, strongly advocated for starting school a week early. The shift would allow AP courses to have more time to cover material and review for the exam.

Many AP teachers begin the first day of school with a short speech about what the class is about, but some include an addition.

Usually, it’s something like “We don’t have enough time to cover all of the material, so we’re going to have to rush.”

But there’s a way to give more time to the APs that many other schools have already incorporated in their schedule: starting school a week earlier.

That’s why Sue Nellis, AP U.S. History teacher, said she pushed to start (and end) school a week earlier when she was the head of high school, 2006-13.

“Obviously our students do well – we have some of the highest AP scores around – but it’s tough when other schools start a few weeks before us,” she said.

“There’s a lot of pressure during the school year.”

And Glenn Mangold, who teaches three AP classes (Physics 1, Physics C and Calculus BC), said that he would be “happy with (any change) that would add more school days before the AP tests.”

AP Biology teacher Kellie Whited said she would have supported the shift a few years ago, but since the College Board revised the AP Biology curriculum to require less material, she no longer needs the extra time.

“Now time is much more manageable, so it’s much less of a pressing concern,” she said.

Nellis said she was told her plan was never implemented due to opposition from the middle and lower schools.

“We used to start after Labor Day, and there was some opposition to starting a week before that at the time,” Nellis said. “I think that people get used to the schedule, so when it’s changed, sometimes there are ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it’ people.”

Although there was a suggestion that just the high school could start a week earlier, Nellis said that it ultimately wasn’t practical if families had children in more than one division.

Nellis said she suggested the earlier start every year as head of high school.

“I don’t think it was ever really considered,” she said. “I seemed to be the only one who ever seemed to want to make it happen.”

But head of school Lee Thomsen said he isn’t necessarily opposed to the change.

In fact, he said that although this proposal wasn’t brought to his attention, he did consider moving school up by a week but didn’t think there was much support for the idea.

“The advantage is that there’s more time for AP classes, but the disadvantage is ending summer sooner,” Thomsen said.

“When I spoke to the faculty about it, I didn’t hear a sort of outcry for ‘Can we please move things back a week?’”

So what do lower- and middle-school teachers think about the idea?

Head of middle school Sandy Lyon said that “nobody (in the middle school) really feels enamored with the idea.

“No one has given a strong reason that would make the lower and middle schools want to change other than ‘Our friends in the high school need it.’ The current schedule works; our students do well on the APs.”

She said that she did suggest that only the high school could start earlier, but no one in the high school wanted to do that.

“[The schedule change] doesn’t seem to serve any needs that the lower and middle schools have,” she said.

Fourth-grade teacher Pam Livesey said that she wouldn’t be opposed to it.

“If it helps the high-school kids, then a week isn’t a big difference,” she said. “And the time in school wouldn’t change, so our curriculum wouldn’t have to change.”

Former head of school Stephen Repsher said that the administrators briefly discussed starting a week earlier, but “quickly decided to shelve the idea.”

And first-grade teacher Robin Kren is glad they did. Actually, she’d like to start a week later.

“I like the traditional way of starting after Labor Day,” she said. “And the heat in the middle of August is unbearable. It really affects the kids.”

She also said that since Cavalier Camp takes place in the lower-school rooms over the summer, teachers must move all their supplies and furniture out of the room at the beginning of summer and back into it at the end.

Additionally, their rooms must be cleaned and their floors polished.

“The first summer of the change would be shortened a week, and since I also teach a summer course I’d barely have a break,”Kren said.

She also noted that unlike the high-school teachers, the lower-school teachers provide school materials for students, so it takes time to order and set up everything before school starts.

By Quin LaComb

Print Friendly, PDF & Email