by Arnav Harve, Staff Writer, October 2021
Fully virtual. Hybrid. Slightly less hybrid? Finally, five in-person days a week to close out the year. Over the past two years, the schedule was jam-packed with changes, as club meeting times, in-person days, and much more shifted to respond to the ever-evolving pandemic. Now, after a year of “schedule experiments,” we finally have returned to a more-or-less pre-Covid schedule. How has everyone adjusted?
Looking back on the previous school year, students expressed favor for the later start. “I really enjoyed starting school on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m., on Fridays I didn’t have to come in until 10:00 a.m. I was getting around ten to eleven hours of sleep every night,” Gabriella Doherty (Class I) said. This perspective was echoed by Olivia Stevo (Class II), who also acknowledged the difficult transition to the 8:00 a.m. start this year. “The hardest part [of the new schedule] is the 8:00 a.m. assemblies. I notice a lot more people are missing assembly, and I think it’s just really hard getting used to the earlier start time,” Stevo said. The move from three classes to four classes per course each week has also led to increased schoolwork and prolonged school days, leading to repercussions across the student body. Oscar Xia (Class III) expressed how both an earlier start and more classes led to increased stress, but have also helped him realize the importance of time management. “I feel like [the new schedule changes] made me use more of my free blocks to do my schoolwork. I try to get as much work done as possible during these times,” Xia said. Doherty also felt stress at the start of the school year, particularly in balancing extracurriculars and difficult senior schoolwork. Despite these challenges, she felt that four classes per course every week was the right move because more material is being covered per week.
Head of Upper School Michael Denning has been an integral part of the administrative schedule discussion, helping the school navigate the numerous schedule changes last year and facilitate the administration’s larger schedule discussions about what the school day should look like post-Covid. The administration had first begun to discuss what a newer schedule would look like when Head of School Dr. Hall commissioned a schedule review before the pandemic had begun. However, this process was impeded by the pandemic, and the administration only decided to revisit implementing a new schedule during the summer. “There were aspects of the hybrid schedule that a lot of people liked,” Denning said. They used the hybrid schedule as a starting point for their post-Covid schedule discussion, and in particular explored a later start. However, Denning and his team realized that even removing thirty minutes from the schedule was going to cut programs that had long been important to the school. “Now sometimes, you have to cut programs, […] but that wasn’t the kind of thing we wanted to do on the fly. That required more discussion, involving more people,” Denning said. He and his team decided to postpone these bigger schedule decisions, taking this year to continue exploring new options for the schedule.
According to Denning, changes to the schedule are processes that require a holistic examination of the benefit to students and the disruption toward the current schedule. Take, for example, the newly added O-block: in the administrative discussions, Denning and his group saw a need for built-in student-teacher contact and schoolwide community time after last year’s schedule. In order to make that possible, the school day was lengthened by 30 minutes, a necessary tradeoff, in Denning’s opinion, for the benefits to the larger community. Along with O-block, the administrative conversations resulted in a few minor changes to the pre-Covid schedule, including affinity groups meeting during the school day. The fully updated schedule is slated to be implemented in Fall 2023 at the earliest.
Modifying the schedule is certainly a difficult prospect, but students have a few ideas for what they would like to see in a revised schedule. Xia expressed interest in a “condensed schedule,” with afternoon program start times pushed forward to result in an overall shorter school day. Doherty echoed this perspective and also said, “I think later start times twice a week would be nice, like at 9:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m.” Stevo emphasized the importance of built-in club times in the schedule. “I feel like there’s never enough [club time], you can only go to like a handful of clubs, and you can’t be present at all of them,” Stevo said.
Making schedule decisions is a complex process that requires the inclusion of many different perspectives and prolonged conversations with students and faculty on what changes can best benefit students. Denning is confident that a full year of community-wide discussions will help Nobles make the best decision for a new schedule.