Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo meets with senior Ulises Barajas during the end-of-the-day conference period to discuss his questions about AP Spanish Literature and Composition.

Conference period extends day; 32 percent of high school students say they’ve used the extra 15 minutes to get help from teachers

Jacqueline Chao
Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo meets with senior Ulises Barajas during the end-of-the-day conference period to discuss his questions about AP Spanish Literature and Composition.

Say goodbye to using your precious free period, elective, break, or lunch to meet with teachers – starting this year, you can meet with them after school during the new conference period. 

From 3:25-3:40 p.m., students can meet with their teachers if they have questions or concerns regarding that teacher’s class, according to head of high school Brooke Wells. 

Though the conference period is voluntary, the faculty encourage students to stay. 

Parents were first notified about the new conference period in a July 2017 letter from Wells. 

Wells said dean of student life Patricia Jacobsen, head of school Lee Thomsen and he created the conference period this summer for three  reasons.

First, Country Day wanted to give students another opportunity to meet with teachers. 

“Sometimes it’s hard for students to meet (with their teachers),” Wells said. “Lunches can be really busy, and many students have electives.” 

Second, according to Wells, the period was added to function as “another layer of support,” since full-time teachers are at school for a longer time if students need them.  

However, so far only 32 percent of students said they have used the conference period to meet with teachers, according to a Sept. 12 Octagon poll of 124 students. Sixty-eight percent said they have not used the conference period yet. 

Junior Abby LaComb said that, in theory, the conference period is a good idea.

However, LaComb said “it might be better if students set up conference times after school so teachers don’t have to stay until 4 p.m. if nobody is coming.”

Wells said the conference period was also added to encourage students to stay at school longer. 

Traffic during pick-up times has been a large problem  in the past.   

“The conference period works,” Wells said. He pointed at the high school pick-up lane at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 30. “See how there are only three or four cars in the high school lane now?”

In the past, cars were backed up all the way into the double row where lower and middle school cars are. Thus, the second row couldn’t move forward, either. 

However, during the second week of school (Sept. 5-8), cars were backed up into the second row every day at 3:25 p.m. 

Not surprisingly, only 22 percent of students polled said their parents wait until 3:45 to pick them up.

Wells said that even if the conference period doesn’t significantly reduce traffic this year, it will most likely remain optional. 

“I don’t think we will make it a requirement,” he said. 

“In a year or two, we might look at the schedule and fully extend the school day, but not now.” 

Freshman Hayden Boersma has not used the conference period so far and is frequently picked up before 3:45 p.m. 

Still, he agrees with the school’s decision to add the conference period. 

“It’s like having an extra free period with all your teachers present,” Boersma said. 

However, Boersma said he believes the conference period should remain optional because of the large number of people with extracurriculars immediately after school.

Wells said anyone with something pressing after school can be picked up at 3:25 p.m.

For example, sophomore Rebecca Waterson is exempt from the conference period due to her daily swimming practice at American River College. 

“My swim practice starts at 4 p.m., and it takes 30 minutes to get to the pool due to traffic,” Waterson said. 

Other swimmers (such as freshmen Sydney Turner and Athena Lin, junior Joe Zales and senior Amalie Fackenthal) are also picked up at 3:25 as well as sophomore dancer Jackson Margolis.

 Jacobsen said she believes the conference period can greatly benefit students. 

“I have already found the extra time helpful,” she said. “Last week, there were students in my classroom every day until around 4 p.m. 

However, other teachers, like biology teacher Kellie Whited, haven’t had many students use the conference period to visit them.

“A student has used the conference period just once,” Whited said. 

“She came in to finish a lab during the last period of the day and stayed through the conference period to ask some questions about the post-lab activity.” 

But Whited said that as her biology classes are still covering review and introductory material, it’s not surprising that students haven’t visited her frequently. 

Jacqueline Chao
Despite the new 15-minute conference period, a line forms in the high school pick-up lane on Sept. 13.

However, Whited said she doesn’t recall any students meeting with her after school last year either. 

“When (students) need to meet with me, (they) will either talk to me privately or email me and set up a time during a mutual free period, lunch or elective,” Whited said. 

Whited acknowledged that because of the rotating schedule, it might be difficult to move the conference period to another time. 

“(Students and teachers) have different free periods, and people do need to eat, so lunch would not be the best time,” she said. “We also regularly have meetings during lunch.” 

Whited said that even if the school decides to drop the conference period, she will still be meeting with students after and during school at their convenience.

In addition to the conference period, full-time teachers are now required to arrive at school by 8 a.m. and stay until 4 p.m., causing scheduling conflicts for teachers.  

Jacobsen said many teachers have after-school commitments, especially if they have children, which can make staying at school longer difficult. 

For example, history teacher Damany Fisher picks up his children from the Shalom School after school. 

Though Shalom is only a five-minute drive away, he said he understands why some people are upset about the new rule. 

“Somebody who has to go across (Sacramento) to get home or pick up their kids in Davis might have a bigger problem,” Fisher said. “The later you wait, the more traffic you run into on the road.” 

Other teachers said they were unaffected by this rule as they often stayed at school until 4 p.m. during previous years as well. 

“I usually stay here until 4 or 4:30 p.m. anyway, so it hasn’t changed my schedule at all,” Latin teacher Jane Batarseh said.

Jacobsen agreed. 

“Teachers have always been encouraged to stay on campus,” Jacobsen said. “We usually make copies and lesson plans or communicate with parents during that time.” 

Teachers like history teacher Sue Nellis, who have previously left school early whenever their schedule allowed for it, can still leave if they do not work full-time. 

Jacobsen said the conference period has had a positive impact on her schedule. 

“One of the challenges of being a teacher is that we don’t take time to ourselves,” she said. “We work through ‘breaks’ and often help people during our lunch times.” 

But now that there is a time set aside for  meetings with students, teachers can take 30 minutes to eat lunch,” she said.

“It makes a big difference to have some rest,” Jacobsen said.  “Meal time should be for enjoying food, not multitasking.”

—By Héloïse Schep

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