Braving the New Bell Schedule

By: Yulia Nakagome

In the last few weeks of summer, I, for one, was trying to stock up on the hours of sleep and freedom I would surely lose to homework during the school year. So when the email went out that school would be getting longer starting September, I cannot honestly say that I was overjoyed.

What was the schedule change?

The schedule change at South Eugene High School effective this 2017-18 school year extended school by five minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and by 32 whole minutes on Wednesdays. Not only did late start get moved back 20 minutes from 9:20 a.m. to 9 a.m., the leisurely lunch that I am sure all of us used to enjoy was cut down to a mere 40 minutes, which is tragic, to say the least. I also am deeply sympathetic to everyone who has to get to school at 7:20 a.m. for zero period. Please know that I am thinking of you all in these difficult times.

Why did we transition to it?

These modifications came about as a result of our lacking number of instructional hours during the 2016-17 school year.

“There was an article in the paper and lots of conversation that started right after we had the ice storm last year,” Principal Andy Dey said. “We missed five and a half days of school, and in the process of determining how many days we needed to make up and how were were going to make that up, we calculated all of the instructional hours available to us over the course of the year and found out that we did not have the number of instructional hours available to students that we wanted to have. It started a conversation about what, if anything, we may do to increase the amount of time that students had in class. It was a long and circuitous conversation that resulted in the schedule that we have now.”

According to The Oregonian, in 2015, the Oregon Board of Education ruled that by 2017, “Oregon schools must schedule [90 percent of] high school students [district-wide] to be in class at least 990 hours a year.” Last year, 85 percent of high school students district wide were expected to be in class for the same number of hours — a requirement that we fell short of.

How was it put together?

There were several factors that were considered in putting together the new schedule.

“One of the big things was that we wanted to have office hours or instructional access (IA) time be a longer period of time so that if students had to make up tests, do longer assignments, or be in labs, then that was a possibility,” Dey said. “We also wanted to have slightly longer classes on Wednesday so that there was not such a difference between Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday classes and a Wednesday class.”

In addition, Dey wanted to make changes to the lunch hour, because it didn’t allow for students to talk to teachers and still be able to have a meal.

“We had students that were racing from class shoving food in their mouths as quickly as possible racing to try to talk to a teacher at lunch and then racing and maybe making it on time. That did not seem to be in the best interest of anyone, students or faculty members,” he said.

How much instruction time will we have in school this year?

According to Dey, South will be reporting 998 hours of instruction available to students in all four grades this year.

“That does not include our zero period instructional hours, so one could construct an argument that says we have quite a bit more than that,” Dey said. “But we definitely have more than the requirement states.”

This is, of course, provided that any unpredictable inclement weather we may have does not hit us as hard as it did last year. Though I was thankful for the snow days while they lasted, the extra week of school tacked on to June was a bit of a bummer.

How do students feel about it?

The reaction of the student body to the revised schedule has ranged from indifference to hatred, but no one seems to be too much of a fan.

“I guess I would say I am pretty impartial since it was not a huge change,” junior Meredith Bolls said.  “It was just a little annoying to learn all the changed times.”

South has always divided the class schedule into even, yet awkward, sections of time. For that reason, it does work a student’s brain cells a little to commit to memory that second period begins at 9:51 a.m. and third at 11:07 a.m., especially after following another schedule for two years. Apparently, having classes start at 9:50 a.m. and at 11:10 a.m. was too much to ask for.

The most common complaint that students had, however, concerned the changes made to the Wednesday schedule.

“I hate the new bell schedule,” junior Hana Matsuno said. “Wednesdays used to be the day I looked forward to, and I loved the long lunches. Now, not so much.”

Matsuno was not the only one who misses the glorious late-start, long-lunch combination Wednesday.

“I am pretty impartial about the regular schedule,” junior Audrey Chen said. “But on Wednesdays, the ‘late start’ is kind of pathetic to be honest.”

The new schedule also affected students in a small way outside of school hours. Because the buses going out from South depart only every 30 minutes, Nour Aboelez, a junior, found herself waiting for the bus roughly half an hour longer than she had to before the schedule change.

“I am not in favor [of the schedule changes],” she said. “It doesn’t work out with the bus schedule, so I have to wait longer [to get home] after school.”

What about other schools in the district?

At the very least, we are not suffering through schedule changes alone. According to Dey, South was not the only school that failed to meet the school hour requirements last year and altered their schedule as a result.

“North Eugene, Sheldon, Churchill, and South Eugene high schools made some changes,” he said. “Roosevelt made some changes and most elementary schools made some changes — some sweeping changes and some more minor in order to best meet the needs of the students.”

All in all, perhaps adding a couple of hours to the school year is not the end of the world. When everyone is in the thick of standardized testing and giant essays, this sentiment will surely not be reciprocated by the grand majority of students. But for now, let us stick it out until next summer. The 900 hour countdown starts now!

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