By Aliza Hammond
Each year, as September progresses and students head back to school, they are forced to leave their carefree summer days behind and readapt to the strenuous lifestyle of typical high school students. In addition, Byram Hills students, teachers and administrators must learn to follow the high school’s new block-style hybrid schedule this year. So, as students, faculty, and families begin to navigate the 2020-21 school year, what are the most important modifications to the schedule to be aware of, and how will this impact students’ education and the course of each school day? I am sure this question is currently surging through the minds of many members of the community. So, bobcats, continue reading and hold on tight while I guide you through everything you need to know about Byram Hills’ newly updated schedule.
In previous years, BHHS has operated on a nine-day drop day schedule, with only 22-minute long lunch periods and approximately three to four minute transition periods. Over the past few years, it was brought to the attention of teachers and administrators that this rigorous schedule resulted in anxiety-ridden and overwhelmed students. As a result, throughout the winter and spring of last school year, Mr. Walsh and the Student Advisory Committee started brainstorming ways to improve the typical day in the life of a BHHS student. A sophomore member of the committee, Samantha Gershuny, explains that “the administration intended to transition towards a block schedule beginning in 2021; therefore, our current socially distant block-style schedule can be used as preparation for a later, more permanent schedule switch in BHHS’s future.” Even prior to COVID-19, both staff and students believed a new schedule was necessary in order to lessen student stress and create a more effective learning environment.
The new schedule operates on a five day rotation, in which the days are dubbed White, Navy, Hills, Red, and Black, respectively. During the course of each day, students attend five class periods, each of which is approximately 50 minutes long. To many students’ liking, lunch periods have also been extended to 50 minutes. According to Sophomore Gavin Javorsky, “longer lunches are a great addition to the schedule this year. Considering that we do not get time to collaborate with our peers during class… having a longer lunch gives us a better opportunity to socialize with our classmates.” In addition, some features of the new schedule were introduced to comply with New York State’s COVID-19 school regulations and guidelines. For example, students have the opportunity to participate in “independent e-learning” and “small group tutorials” at the beginning and end of each school day. During independent e-learning, students are able to go to their grade-level home bases and work independently on homework and projects. On the other hand, small group tutorials allow students to engage in small group extra help sessions with teachers. Along with these blocks of free time—which stagger student arrival times—transition periods have been extended to a 10 minutes long in order to prevent overcrowding in entrances and hallways. Most importantly, as part of the hybrid schedule, students with last names beginning with A-K attend school in the first few days of the week, while those with L-Z participate in virtual learning. At the end of the week, this flips in order to accommodate all students both in class and online.
While adjusting to the alteration in our school’s schedule, teachers and students will inevitably face challenges. For example, each class period congregates three times per week, instead of the previously scheduled four times per week. Sophomore Remi Matza asserts that “it has certainly been challenging to acclimate to the new schedule, especially the hybrid aspect. Furthermore, while remote learning tends to be more comfortable and leisurely, it is difficult to grasp all of the material while learning from home. This is due to connection issues and the presence of many distractions while at home.” However, junior Hallie Gordon enjoys many aspects of the new schedule. For example, she explains, “I really like how we only have class three times a week with the new schedule. Essentially, this gives me more time to complete my work, as we do not meet with every class every day.”
Initially, this new schedule was implemented to adhere to health restrictions in the wake of the COVID-10 pandemic. However, it has become clear that this schedule does so much more than that. The schedule creates a more serene environment for student learning, while decreasing students’ stress and anxiety. Furthermore, with more independent time, students can really extend their studies and dedicate themselves to their learning. Students and teachers can also collaborate more, from a distance of 6 feet of course, during small group tutorials.
Our new world looks so different to the world we lived in eight months ago. The way we attend school, the way we interact with others, and the way that we go about our everyday lives have changed. However, I believe that this new schedule will not only allow students to maintain their health and safety but also allow them to truly excel academically.