By: Julia Proshan ‘18
The new schedule changes for next year have been heralded as a way to decrease student stress and make time for the breadth and depth of activities available at Heschel; however, while there are many advantages to this new plan, there are also some meaningful disadvantages we must consider.
First, making classes 50 minutes instead of 45 and three-and-a-half times a week instead of four may cause students more harm than good. While many teachers feel that there is not enough class time to complete the necessary tasks, many students feel that 45 minutes is the perfect amount of class time. In fact, some students find that length of time to be too long. Even just an extra five minutes could lead students to lose focus. Also, in theory, fewer class meetings per week sounds as if it could lighten students’ workload. However, as classes meet less frequently, students will have less class time to ask teachers questions prior to tests and will have to devote more free time to academic meetings. Additionally, teachers will no longer be able to give students the opportunity to use class time to complete long-term projects because the lack of class meetings will force them to devote each and every class to teaching new topics.
Second, the move of clubs block from eighth to last period on Wednesdays will decrease student involvement in clubs and make it seem as if clubs are not an integral aspect of the student experience. Students will no longer feel motivated to pursue their extracurricular interests. Instead, they will see the new timing of clubs block as an opportunity to get home earlier and therefore begin their homework earlier, especially since Wednesdays will be advertised as a 4:10 dismissal day. Friday lunch is the better of the two clubs periods, as it will allow for clubs to be integrated into the school day and for higher student attendance at clubs.
Third, having art three times a week instead of four and physical education classes two times a week instead of three may also pose some challenges for students. Seniors taking Advanced Statistics, which meets during the arts block, will only be able to meet with their class three times a week, while students taking other math classes will have the ability to meet with their class three-and-a-half times a week. Additionally, students taking art electives, especially students working on creating art portfolios, will have significantly less time to work on projects that can only be completed in school. Finally, students taking gym, dance, or yoga will have significantly less time to relieve stress and to be active through physical education. Exercise releases endorphins and therefore has the ability to improve a person’s mental state. In the middle of a long, work-packed day, gym classes give students a break and moves their focus from school to physical activity.
While there are some disadvantages to the changes, there are also some advantages. FOr example, more time between classes will be beneficial to students. Five, instead of three, minutes between classes is actually a significant positive change, as students will have room to breathe and to settle themselves in before each class begins; five minutes allows time for a true break. The time change will also decrease students’ stress, as they will not have to scramble to get to class as quickly. It gives students the ability to arrive on time, especially when they have a science class in the lower school building.
It is also advantageous that Mondays, Tuesdays, and even the already short Fridays, will be shorter. A shorter day, even only by ten minutes, is easier for students. Days ending at 4:45 have felt quite exhausting for students, so even ten minutes off is beneficial. Also, students already enjoy that Fridays end at 2:30, so the cut of 35 minutes is even better.
Finally, the addition of grade-wide as well as school-wide flex periods gives students school time to spend outside of the classroom, so that school days do not have to feel like non-stop work. Flex periods give the entire student body more chances to unify not only as grades but as an entire school. Additionally, flex periods allow advisories to meet more than once a week, giving students more time to seek assistance and simply to relax and enjoy some free time.
Despite the challenges the changes may pose, students should come into next year with an open mind. Initially, some students may struggle to adjust to the changes; however, as the year continues, students will come to embrace it.