A Cappella Club members freshman Brynne Barnard-Bahn, senior Larkin Barnard-Bahn, junior Sarina Rye and senior Héloïse Schep rehearse during flex period. The new schedule features these daily 35-minute periods, often used by clubs, electives and classes. (Photo by Hermione Xian)
School community divided on schedule change’s effectiveness
Of those who expressed a preference, students overwhelmingly favor the new schedule over the old one. Overall, however, slightly less than half do.
Last spring, a committee of 13 administrators, teachers and staff members decided to extend classes, eliminate the long period before lunch, add a 35-minute flex period after elective, drop one class per day and add three-minute passing periods.
According to a poll of 123 students on Sept. 23-26, 48% said they like the new schedule more than the old one, 12% said they like it less, and 40% said they have no preference.
“It provides so much more time for getting work done,” senior Alyssa Valverde said. “Now I can be more productive during the day and get more sleep at night.”
The schedule now feels more relaxed, according to history teacher Chris Kuipers.
“There is just more breathing time,” Kuipers said. “And that’s a reflection of the totality (of the schedule change), from passing periods and longer classes to a flex period and fewer classes a day. I can be thoughtful about what I’m doing, and it hasn’t been as stressful to find time for students who want extra help.”
Kuipers said the flex period is a vital factor in this improvement.
“My sense from talking to students is that it’s really achieving the (committee’s) goals,” he said. “(We) wanted to build space into the schedule to alleviate the pressures that clubs or students seeking extra time were feeling.”
The period has also provided time for college counseling meetings, Kuipers said.
Math teacher Patricia Jacobsen said the flex period has been advantageous for her as well.
“We now have an extra period compartmentalized as a meeting time,” Jacobsen said. “I’ve been doing a better job of actually eating during lunch, although I still do work.”
Given that she doesn’t have a free period this year, Jacobsen said the flex time is especially helpful.
“Now there are little pockets of time for things like clubs to meet or students to make up tests,” Jacobsen said.
However, the flex period, according to head of high school Brooke Wells, has not yet been used to its potential.
For example, although he said it would have made sense to schedule class pictures during flex on Sept. 19, the teachers had already planned a student support meeting for that time, meaning pictures had to be taken during break.
Similarly, the sophomore class’s field trip to the Sacramento Central Library couldn’t occur during flex period because the librarians were only available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to Wells.
Wells said similar events in the future will utilize flex time whenever possible.
But he said the flex period won’t eliminate stress.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” Wells said. “It’s still only one period to do (everything) you want to get done. But we’ve taken a bit of the pressure off.”
Jacobsen, for example, said she is unsure if the change has alleviated her stress because she has no free period and doesn’t have two periods of any class.
“That adds stress to my work because I don’t get to do the same lecture twice,” Jacobsen said. “But I couldn’t have done (all my classes) without flex period, so (in that sense) it did help.”
However, senior Charles Thomas said the new schedule is too relaxed.
Thomas, who transferred from Jesuit his sophomore year, said his schedule there was similar to Country Day’s current one, as not every class occurred every day.
“When I transferred here, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a lot of work,’” Thomas said. “It was very difficult, but I think I was also learning a lot more this way than I would have otherwise.”
He added that Country Day’s old schedule had sufficient free time because students chose the number of electives and classes they took.
“I had one free elective,” Thomas said. “So every other day, I had a certain amount of free time (in addition to) lunch, and that was enough (for me).”
However, he said he sees the benefit of the new schedule for seniors, who can use flex period to study for the SAT and work on college applications.
For students in clubs, the period has provided an ideal pocket of time, according to senior Larkin Barnard-Bahn, founder and president of the A Cappella Club.
Previously, her club met from 7:30 to 8:20 a.m. two days a week due to members’ after-school commitments.
Now, the club rehearses twice a week during flex period, which she said allows everyone to attend.
While “the good outweighs the bad,” according to Barnard-Bahn, adding the flex period has posed challenges.
One of these problems, she said, is that orchestra and band teachers sometimes use the period for rehearsals. Furthermore, because flex period is only 30 minutes long, the club gets only 60 minutes of practice a week this year versus 80 minutes.
“I could add another flex period, but I think that would be met with resistance,” Barnard-Bahn said. “People like the flex period to relax.”
One solution, Barnard-Bahn said, would be to ensure that students get out of elective on time because it can take up to 10 minutes for people to “trickle in.”
“I’ve also heard complaints from people that teachers are taking up a lot of their flex time, which takes away from clubs,” Barnard-Bahn said. “Other than rehearsing specifically for performances, I think that time should be left for clubs.”
However, Current Events Club founder and president Avinash Krishna, a junior, said the schedule has benefited his club, serving as a dedicated time for meetings once a week.
On the other hand, senior Anu Krishnan, the founder of the Math and Science Tutoring Club, said the flex period isn’t an ideal time for her club to meet.
“There are already so many conflicts during that time,” Krishnan said. “The kids who need the help are all involved in many different things during flex.”
Therefore, her club still meets at lunch once a week.
The class time extension from 45 to 52 minutes has, like the flex period, been met with mixed reactions.
Jacobsen said she now has the time to check homework answers and go over questions in class.
Geometry Honors and Algebra II students now have time to do homework in class as well, according to Jacobsen.
She added that the extended class time makes up for the absence of a long period, which she said she rarely used.
Kuipers also likes the new class length.
“(The length) hits a sweet spot and feels a little more substantive,” Kuipers said.
However, Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo said some of her classes feel too long.
“Especially in Spanish I and II, there’s only so much that can be taken in in one class period.” Portillo said.
Sophomore Dylan Margolis agreed.
“Seven (more) minutes feels like a large stretch of time,” Margolis said. “In the classes which aren’t my favorites, I really notice those minutes.”
Similar to the change in class time, the three-minute passing periods have been an adjustment for students and teachers.
Krishna said he loves the extra time.
“I don’t have to rush to classes and worry about teachers saying I’m late,” he said. “It makes everything much smoother.”
Krishna added that the passing periods allow teachers to keep students in class for an extra minute.
“And when you need to print something or run to a locker, you have a few minutes, and you’re not late for class,” Krishna said.
Wells agreed that the passing periods reduce pressure on students.
“Even though classes (weren’t actually starting and ending at the same time last year), it created an illusion of stress,” Wells said.
Jacobsen said the passing periods have also decreased students’ tardiness, which previously “wasted time” at the beginning of class. However, she said she often forgets to let her students out on time because she is not used to the new schedule.
“I recognized that I wasn’t doing a very good job,” she said. “So I’ve set a timer on my phone as my signal to finish class.”
The high school’s lack of a bell system, Jacobsen said, has made the transition difficult.
Kuipers agreed, saying that having no formal bells makes the schedule more informal, slightly undermining the passing periods. But he said tardiness has not yet been a problem in his classes.
A more controversial change is the daily dropped class.
While Jacobsen said it is good for students not to have math every day because it gives them a break, the dropped period has created test-scheduling issues because students want to have class the day before a test in order to review.
She said she has also encountered problems when students miss class for an extended period of time because of long weekends.
“(On one) Friday, I took the afternoon off for personal time, so I missed my last class,” Jacobsen said. “Then on Monday, that class was dropped, so I didn’t see them again until Tuesday.”
Due to the schedule’s backward rotation, with one day’s last class becoming the next day’s dropped class, students will miss a period for multiple days in a row every time a teacher has to leave early, according to Jacobsen.
Kuipers, however, said dropping a class has reduced his load.
Kuipers said he has made minor changes to AP European History, the only class he is teaching again this year, to fit into the new schedule.
“It’s just about being more efficient,” Kuipers said. “Maybe a discussion is a bit shorter one day or we watch less of a video, but I think it just (improves) the flow of the class.”
However, for Portillo, skipping a day of class has been the biggest problem the new schedule has created.
“I’m still not convinced that it’s the best thing,” Portillo said. “It affects the lower levels the most because they need that everyday practice. This weekend, one of my classes will miss four days. That’s a long time (to miss the practice required to learn a language).”
She said dropping one of her five classes every six days is also difficult to keep track of and makes it hard to plan.
This decrease in class periods per week will affect how much she gets done, Portillo said, especially considering the removal of the long period, during which her students wrote practice AP essays.
But Portillo said it is “just a matter of adjusting her curriculum to the change.” With the time per class more evenly distributed, “there is a little more flexibility.”
However, Margolis said dropping a class each day disrupts the curriculum of some of his courses.
“We do nothing in some classes because the other period (of that class) is behind and needs to catch up,” Margolis said. “So I feel like we’re just wasting time. And some classes learn about assignments or a test before the weekend, giving them more time to work, which (I think) is unfair.”
Because some teachers assign twice as much homework on days they are dropping a class, according to Margolis, the new schedule adds, rather than alleviates, stress.
Senior Savannah Rosenzweig agreed.
“It feels like you’ve been away from that class for much longer than you actually have,” Rosenzweig said.
To improve the schedule, Barnard-Bahn said she would lengthen morning break.
“We used to have time after morning meetings,” she said. “But now our break is entirely the meeting.”
Consequently, Barnard-Bahn said she has zero free time when C days fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“I have two classes, morning meeting, two other classes, C-day meeting during lunch, elective, A Cappella and then my final class. On a day like this, I couldn’t go to the bathroom,” Barnard-Bahn said.
However, when she has free period last, her school day ends at 12:12.
“While I really enjoy those days,” Barnard-Bahn said, “they don’t make up for the lack of free time on C days.”
She offered a solution.
“We have three minutes of passing period at the end of the day, which I think should definitely be added to break,” she said.
Wells said the scheduling committee plans to let teachers and students adjust to the current schedule until November.
“Then we’ll get some official feedback from students and teachers, and we’ll just see (if changes need to be made),” Wells said.
—By Anna Frankel
Originally published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Octagon.