By Aliza Hammond
Day in and day out, we follow the same schedule: wake up, eat breakfast, have four or five classes, eat lunch, have a couple more classes, and go back home, or for those involved in extracurriculars, attend club meetings, sports practices, and other commitments. Overall, our days come with little free time and rest. However, at BHHS many have become accustomed to the ways in which our school days run. It has come to my attention, as well as many other students, teachers, and administrators, that this may not be the best way to go about organizing our days here at the high school. Throughout the past couple of months, many people within the BHHS community have come together and brainstormed how we can change our norm, in order to create a better life for students.
Currently, our high school functions on a nine day cycle schedule. Most days, students have about fifty minute periods, with approximately a twenty-five minute lunch period. On days one through eight, a different class is dropped each day, and on A days, students visit every class with about forty-five minute periods. According to Dr. Kaltenecker, the deputy superintendent at Byram Hills, “several issues have come to light in the past five years that have resulted in a review of our master schedule at the high school.” More specifically, the length of the periods, number of free periods per student, and the number of periods per day are suspected to be the root causes of problems appearing within our school.
Dr. Kaltenecker continued to elaborate on these issues. First, he says that there has been a shift in standards which now require a teaching of deeper content, as well as focusing upon “analysis, synthesis, evaluation of content and problem solving,” rather than just basic memorization. The schedule we currently run on does not permit this deep level of teaching, as class periods are often too short to allow for lengthier discussions or alternate methods of teaching. Additionally, the innovative ways in which we use technology within our classrooms tend to conflict with the limited amount of time our current schedule offers. Dr. Kaltenecker continues by explaining that students do not only need more time in their academic classes, but it is crucial that students have the opportunity to navigate real life issues and apply their knowledge to everyday life. A new schedule would add in time that allows just that; students to go deeper into learning as well as time to go beyond the borders of our typical subject-styled learning.
Not only is the current schedule preventing many from obtaining the full and enriched education necessary to succeed, but it is also negatively affecting the mental health and wellbeing of many students. Remi Matza, a freshman at BHHS, stands as one of many students who has been negatively impacted by the current schedule format. She says that as a result of short class periods and “the fact that most students only have one free period every nine days, many rarely have time to complete work during the school day.” Ultimately, this contributes to anxiety as the overload of homework, projects, and exams can be quite stressful. She continues by saying that the lunch periods only allow students to “merely eat a rushed meal and then head to their next class.” Mr. Walsh, the principal at BHHS, learned the validity of these statements, as he shadowed a typical day in the life of a student. As a result, Mr. Walsh found that the school day was quite tiring and anxiety-ridden for students. This prompted the students and faculty to think hard with regards to how they could improve the lives of those at our school.
Samantha Gershuny, a member of the Student Advisory Board, is one of the student leaders at our school advocating for change. One of the jobs of this committee is to look at future schedule ideas and share their opinions. Samantha remarked that “many of the potential new schedules she has looked at incorporate some longer class and lunch periods, and many also include activity periods which will allow students to meet with clubs, do homework, study etc…” Additionally, the new schedule would most likely have block and rotating periods, less transitions, and a mix of shorter/longer class periods. Dr. Kaltenecker shared with me that “[their] hope is that a new schedule slows down the pace so that all aspects of learning can be addressed, including content knowledge, social-emotional learning, and engagement with 21st century skills.” Twelfth grade global scholars students, as well as the entire school faculty, had the opportunity to propose potential schedules. Currently, there are many different ideas in the running.
Our present schedule certainly gives students a rigorous education and allows for some free time, but with a new schedule, I foresee an even brighter future for BHHS. Overall, a new schedule will promote a calming and relaxing environment for students to enjoy, rather than stress. A new schedule will allow for students to learn deeply, apply their knowledge to the real world, and devote more time to their interests. A new schedule will morph a place of stress and anxiety into a place where students are encouraged to enjoy learning and follow their passions.