Over the past two years, the school has seen drastic changes to its schedule in response to the outbreak of Covid-19. From virtual learning to three 90 minute classes to the current schedule of four 75 minute blocks, the 2022-2023 school year will have another significant change that may alter how the curriculum is taught entirely.
“This structure [for the 2022-2023 schedule] will allow students to enroll in year-long courses that meet continuously over the entire academic year or semester-based electives that meet continuously for the full semester. A standard course load will return to 5-6 courses per semester,” Head of Upper School Mr. Mark Fifer said.
With almost double the number of courses along with a series of adjustments, members of the student body express similar sentiments about the current schedule.
“I think that having the new schedule will help with class fluidity as well as provide beneficial social coherence throughout the school year that was lacking these past two years,” Fifth Former Roch Parayre said.
Students and teachers alike share similar feelings in regards to the social disconnect that has been negatively impacted.
“In a way that is perhaps specific to the way I teach U.S. History, I cannot have authentic current events discussions with all of my students when I only see half of them at any given time; I have greatly disliked the disjointed nature of current events conversations in this quarter model,” History Department Chair Ms. Hannah Turlish said. “As a near-unanimous group [the History Department], we feel that the current model severely infringes upon our ability to cover material in the depth and breadth that we set as a core curricular goal.”
Academic coherence in conjunction with social unity is another major discussion point among students and faculty alike. Not to mention, the two-month hiatus with the current schedule also impacts the overall learning experience for the students.
We also believed that the [current] schedule merited further exploration to investigate the extent to which the underlying structure—fewer concurrent courses and daily class meetings during designated periods of the year—influenced student learning and the overall school experience.Mr. Mark Fifer
“We also believed that the schedule merited further exploration to investigate the extent to which the underlying structure—fewer concurrent courses and daily class meetings during designated periods of the year—influenced student learning and the overall school experience,” Mr. Fifer said.
Using feedback about the previous and current model, students and administration discussed in “focus” groups suggestions to form the new schedule.
“In a focus group, facilitated by the faculty and administration of the Upper School, which was intended to gather multiple student perspectives surrounding the benefits and negatives of both schedules, the overwhelming consensus was that the quarter system is easier to manage in terms of workload, but in terms of course fluidity and overall academic enjoyment, the year-long system should be in place,” Parayre said.
Other aspects were considered over the last three months in addition to the focus groups.
“I have been so impressed with the care and professionalism that my school colleagues have shown in this process. There was a Scheduling Committee that did a lot of work to produce an exceptionally thoughtful and comprehensive compilation of the views of faculty and students alike,” Ms. Turlish said.
After an analysis of the myriad of factors and feedback over the past three months, the administration ultimately deemed the new schedule as the best “fit”.
“We believe that a continuous academic schedule best supports the boy’s overall learning experience and creates the conditions that cultivate strong relationships in service of meaningful community connection and personal growth,” Mr. Fifer said. “We also believe that a continuous model best fits within the architecture of the full school program and aligns more cohesively with other divisions and the existing academic calendar.”
For underclassmen that have experienced only the 3-4 block per quarter schedules, the new 5-6 block continuous model is a major change.
I don’t like the thought of having all the classes at once, the workload will have a huge increase. Given that I will be a junior, this will honestly have such an impact on my experience, I will be taking all of my honors classes at once.Casey Williams ’24
“The new schedule honestly seems intimidating since we have been with this schedule for my high school career so far. I don’t like the thought of having all the classes at once, the workload will have a huge increase. Given that I will be a junior, this will honestly have such an impact on my experience, I will be taking all of my honors classes at once,” Fourth Former Casey Williams said.
Workload varies among students but balancing the new fuller schedule may be a challenge.
“I think because I will be taking mostly electives as a senior, it will not have as large of an impact on my personal experience; however, for those with year-long classes, students will likely not experience the same gap and rigidness of the quarter-system schedule. It may be difficult for them to balance 5-6 classes at the same time,” Parayre said.
While the continuous model has been decided, further modifications are to be made.
“We plan to take the next several weeks to determine the specific length of class periods and the class meeting pattern that create the best possible learning environments for our faculty to generate high levels of student engagement, collaboration, agency, and growth,” Mr. Fifer said.
Other aspects such as flex, a time where students can meet with teachers, and clubs block have also not been implemented into the new schedule.
Among mixed opinions, students and teachers still look forward to the new continuous schedule.
“I am excited for the next phase and the things I will again be able to do in the continuous model,” Turlish said.
“I am happy that we are switching back to the year-long schedule for my senior year; however, I am curious as to how the other grades will react to the non-quarter schedule,” Parayre said.
Until March, the finalized new schedule won’t be ready, but students and faculty of the Upper School can expect a more sustained academic and social experience.