By Raphaela Gold ‘21, Editor-in-Chief
Over the past few weeks, Heschel students and faculty have been struggling to hit upon a schedule which balances everyone’s needs. Due to our current unprecedented circumstances, creating a consistent and reasonable schedule has proven difficult. How can teachers finish their curriculums if there are fewer classes per week? How do students continue to attend Zoom extracurriculars after school along with doing their schoolwork? What is best for students’ mental health?
The newest version of the schedule works to balance all of these values. In creating the schedule, both student and teacher feedback were taken into consideration. “We try to ensure that our program is not being driven by the schedule but the schedule supports the values of our programs and our mission as a school,” said Head of High School Rabbi Noam Silverman. One of the first challenges the administration encountered in creating a Zoom schedule was that while it is impossible to successfully replicate our full day schedule on Zoom, it is necessary to make it through the heart of our curriculum before the end of the school year. The original schedule was shorter to allow time for students to adjust and for faculty to learn and debrief during faculty departmental meetings. “We wanted to make sure there was ample time for teachers to work out how to better succeed in a new medium,” recalled Silverman. “That’s part of where the 10:00 start time originated… The other part of the thinking was making sure that there was time built in for students. That was one guiding principle.” Silverman continued to keep these guiding principles in mind in creating further versions of the schedule. Another guiding principle was ensuring that there was time for feedback to improve the schedule, and a third principle was getting through the curriculum.
After Pesach break, school ended at 3:45 p.m. rather than 2:45 p.m. each day to give each class more meeting times and because students were asking for more structure. Adhering to the principle of building in time for feedback, the administration sent out a Google Form to gauge students’ reactions to the then new schedule. Around 65% of students felt that the schedule was too long and the administration became concerned about implementing it for a full six weeks. Silverman commented, “That’s how we arrived at schedule version 3.0. We couldn’t increase every class’s meeting times and still have a schedule that made sense, and we felt that in terms of curriculum the classes which still had the most to cover before the end of the year were Science, Social Studies, English, and LQ (Limudei Qodesh).”
The updated version of the schedule, in which the length of the school day varies from a 2:40 p.m. ending time to a 3:35 p.m. ending time, has now been in place for a few weeks. Overall, students seem to be satisfied. “I think we correctly identified what wasn’t working in the schedule we introduced right after Pesach and we ensured that we could get through more learning in a way that wasn’t taxing,” Silverman noted. Though there were some small issues to work out within the schedule, like how teachers with multiple sections could teach them at the same time, people have been able to adapt to the changes and come up with solutions. For example, some teachers teach one section while the other section does in-class work.
As usual, students have met the new schedule with a mixture of support and complaints. Junior Aaron Epstein thinks that the current schedule is an improvement from the last, but still finds it difficult to stay on Zoom. He commented, “The schedule isn’t perfect, but having school over Zoom is not ideal and there will always be issues with it, so I think that the administration did a good job with this schedule.” Ethan Katz, a sophomore, agreed, saying, “I like it [the current schedule] a lot more than the longer one.” However, some are less inclined to view the schedule as a perfect balance of values. Junior Libby Meir noted, “It still feels far too long on our long days and even though some days are short, it doesn’t feel like our mental health is being valued enough.”
Though the administration continues to be open to feedback, this schedule will be in place until the end of the year.