While the high school left many aspects of the hybrid learning schedule behind in hopes of normalcy for the 2021-2022 school year, they made a noteworthy change to the elective schedule.
This year, students take previously semester-long elective courses for only one quarter. In addition, these elective courses now run five times per cycle, instead of three. While it may seem like a small change, the transition of electives meeting the same amount as core classes impacts the social dynamics within each class, schedule opportunities, teacher routines, and everyday bustle in the halls.
Semester-long electives that met only three times per cycle added confusion for students, teachers, and staff, to the high school’s already complex schedule. But, the high school’s approach to hybrid learning in response to COVID-19 safety measures drastically changed the schedule format, and sparked the new quarter-long elective system.
“When we had [school] closure, and were looking to try to make a schedule, we found that one of the things that really complicated getting a schedule together was the three times per cycle classes,” said Assistant Principal Ms. Sarah Matloff.
As the administrator behind the elective adjustment, Matloff found that a quarter elective schedule would open up more seats for students in each class. While previously, elective teachers would teach eight classes over the course of a semester, they now can teach five classes each quarter.
“The other thing that occured to me was that if kids could take a quarter of PE, and then a quarter of Drawing and Painting 1 or something like that, then that would actually make it so that more kids could get the class,” said Matloff.
Similarly, previously full-year elective classes now meet five times per cycle for one semester. This alleviates the pressure for students to commit to a full-year class, and creates more opportunities to experiment with other offerings.
“I think that making Acting One, Two, and Three a semester only class has worked because people can take the class and then they can take something else. I think some people didn’t take Acting for a year because they felt locked in. They just wanted to see what it was like,” said acting teacher Ms. Kara Sullivan.
Making electives like Acting meet five times per cycle, however, limits the number of blocks they can meet. This, in turn, gives students less opportunity to sample out numerous classes.
“Acting One is only available yellow block. So if [students] have another class yellow block, especially if it’s a core class, they can’t take it. So where it used to meet several different blocks, I think both blue and red block last year, it offered more opportunities for kids to take the class. That is a limitation.” said Sullivan.
Matloff works with PowerSchool Data Manager Ms. Laurie Owens, WHS Technology Specialist Ms. Lynn Herschelman, and Power Scheduler, a program that works with PowerSchool, to create each schedule. In the past, inconsistent elective schedules made it difficult for Power Scheduler to ensure that students taking an elective were first enrolled in the corresponding prerequisite.
“I went to a conference this fall, and thanks to the PTSO, I’m pretty sure that I did this correctly. Now [Power Scheduler] will do the prerequisites correctly as well. I’m hoping that both with the transition to the quarter schedule, and figuring out how to get the computer to understand prerequisites, more kids will get the electives that they want,” said Matloff.
Though students have the chance to try out a larger variety of electives offered, entering or teaching a new class four times within a year, instead of just two, is a large adjustment.
“I would say that the hardest thing has been trying to get used to the pacing of it…it’s kind of like the first day of school four times. But I like getting to know the students quicker, because I see them more often,” said fitness and health teacher Ms. Kathleen Brophy.
Another fitness and health teacher, Mr. Matt Wassel, teaches elective classes Fitness Yoga, Fitness Center Workout, Adventure, and Sport, and takes advantage of the time he gets to spend with his students in a class that is usually new and different to them.
“I love yoga. It’s what I need the older I get. After shoveling all weekend and snow blowing I was like, ‘alright, I need to do some yoga’, so on Monday that felt great,” said Wassel.
But while he, like every other elective teacher, gets to see his students more during the week with the new schedule, he feels restricted by only getting to know his students for a short two-three months.
“When you have kids over a semester, you see them from September to January. And then, even though you’re not seeing them as much, you feel like you might get to know them better, just because it’s over a long period of time. You might see them in the hallway or see them at lunch, or around school,” said Wassel.
In the end, both the semester-long and quarter-long schedules have their benefits, and the high school is always open to adapting and experimenting for the best interest of students and faculty.
“If you want a quick ‘taste’ of a class with the option to take another, then the quarter schedule is for you. If you want more time to explore an art discipline and grow as an artist, then the semester is a better fit,” said Visual Arts Teacher Mr. Brian Reddy.
“I love that I see the kids more. It allows for more of a flow of a curriculum. And it allows me to get to know the kids better. So I don’t see much negative about it. I would teach all day if I could,” said Sullivan.
Students who have experienced both schedules have positive feedback for the quarter-long classes as well, agreeing that there is more room to try out new and unfamiliar classes.
“I think that the new quarter schedule offers a lot more opportunities to students who want to try more new things, but with the previous schedule weren’t able to fit it all into a semester. It also makes for a more concrete schedule each term, and underclassmen don’t have to worry about bouncing around between DR rooms when their electives don’t meet,” said Emery Conlin ’23.
“I appreciate that the quarter schedule allows you to dedicate yourself more wholly to a certain subject area, and it also allows you to advance through the different levels more quickly so you can take more classes,” said Abraham Budson-McQuilken ’22.
Nothing is permanent, but so far, the new, quarter-length schedule has brought a lot of benefits to the 2021-2022 school year.
“I’m excited to see how it can work next year now that I have a better understanding of the mechanics.. I’m not sure if it’s here to stay. It’s here to stay for next year,” said Matloff.