Thinking About the High School Schedule
Churchill School Looking to Make Positive Changes to the High School Academic Schedule.
I have recently invited several key members of the Churchill High School’s faculty and staff to form a committee with the purpose of making some significant changes to our daily schedule. It is my hope that any of the changes we decide to pursue would take effect with the start of the 2020-21 school year. What these changes will ultimately look like has yet to be determined, as we will be meeting throughout the year, but I thought this might be a nice space to inform the Churchill community about some of our initial thoughts on this matter and to invite everyone to weigh in with thoughts of their own.
To give you just a little background, the last time we made significant changes to the schedule was a couple of years ago when we added a flex period, a later start time, and study halls for 9th and 10th graders. These moves all proved to be popular with students, which is not surprising considering the changes were intended to help move our schedule from one which was created with adult needs in mind, to one that centered on student needs. Our current schedule was also initiated after I had met with an organization that emphasized the growing frequency of mental health issues among high school students across the nation. The later start time was a response to this reality, as sleep deprivation is closely tied to mental health.
We also wanted to provide extra space in the day for students to slow down and catch their breath or to get help from their teachers if they were struggling. We felt this was especially important for students who were involved in after school activities or those who had other commitments after school and could therefore not utilize the 3 pm to 4 pm afterschool work period. Giving students the opportunity to finish their work before they left school also has reduced the negative effects on students struggling with executive functioning issues. It has also allowed parents and students to discuss things other than homework when families finally find the time to sit down together at the end of their long days.
In addition to the outcomes mentioned above, we also wanted to increase student agency and build in opportunities for good decision making. Flex period, which is a 35-minute period directly after lunch, has helped us meet these goals. Flex is yet another time in the day when students can seek out help from their teachers, work on homework, or seek out the help from the school’s specialists, such as the Speech and Language teachers or members of our mental health team. It has also proven to be a popular time for our seniors to visit the guidance office.
So what are we looking to improve moving forward? First, I would say that scheduling is a very difficult task and much more complex than many assume. The fact that we are a small school and share space with two other divisions doesn’t make things any easier. Having said this, we would like to accomplish the following goals as we look to improve our schedule:
Introduce longer class periods or block periods for our core content courses of history, English, science, and math (courses are currently 39 minutes)
Reduce the number of transitions during the course of the school day from 9 to 5
Give students more class time to begin their homework
Build-in more community time for assemblies, clubs, and guest speakers
Create space for more meetings between advisors and advisees
Create more flexibility and greater student access to our electives program offerings
Create a better balance of core course offerings. Our freshmen and sophomores currently take 3 academic classes in a row. We would like to reduce that to no more than two.
At the end of the day, we hope we can build on the progress we have made over the last couple of years. We would love to hear from parents who have any suggestions of their own and I would be more than happy to sit down with you to discuss your ideas or concerns. We will also be reaching out to students to get their take on changes that would help to create a more efficient learning environment and add to the quality of our school’s culture.
Principal, High School
The Churchill School and Center