By Keely Wiese
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Everyone has opinions on the scheduling at Monticello High School.
Five years ago, all four Albemarle County high schools switched to hybrid scheduling. Now, only Monticello and Murray still use it. After a one year trial period, the other two high schools switched back to the year-long schedules.
Currently, the format for the master schedule is called hybrid block scheduling.
Technically, the term ‘block scheduling’ refers to the 4 x 4 schedule, where there are four class periods a day, and two days, A and B, which rotate every other day. Often, block scheduling is incorrectly used to refer to semester classes. However, in technical terms hybrid scheduling is the mixture of semester classes and year-long classes.
The hybrid schedule allows students to take more classes of the same subject in one year, like mathematics or foreign language, while they take other classes, like science and P.E., that aren’t quite as fast-paced.
This being said, the hybrid schedule is complicated to put together, and many students don’t get the schedule they want. The teachers, administrators, counselors, and all of the 1100 students have ideas on whether or not this schedule should change based on their past experiences. Logistically speaking, one thing is clear: having all semester-long classes or all year-long classes would be simpler for the administrators and guidance counselors when putting together the master schedule.
Mr. Bonham, assistant principal, said, “From a scheduling perspective it would be much easier…. It’s like a chess match, trying to do all this.”
The advantages and disadvantages for the hybrid system are numerous. The same goes for the solely year-long schedule and the 4 x 4 schedule. No doubt there is tangible data on how to give substance to opinions about scheduling- data that is only partly collected – and whether there are enough complaints to get rid of the hybrid schedule and push the decision back to the original all year-long classes is yet to be seen.
School members have recently worked to summon substance into these discussions. Five years after the hybrid system was introduced, a test team was formed. Their goal was to primarily collect data on the change and list the pros and cons of the new schedule.
Con: Creating a schedule with the hybrid system instead of an all year-long schedule is a lot more work.
According to Ms. Camp, the month of August when the administration creates the master schedule is when her work is the most difficult. “That’s when I have to call students and talk through why they didn’t get the elective they chose, or why they couldn’t take the classes they requested or anticipated.”
In December, students start putting in their class requests. The Juniors get first choice. Dr. Turner and Mr. Bonham then go through the requests and decide which classes will be year-long and which will be semester classes based on feedback from teachers.
In the spring, guidance counselors meet with students and their parents to create that student’s dream schedule.
Over the summer, the computer takes the requests and creates a master schedule for each student. Then the guidance staff goes through each schedule, checking for gaps. That is when the phone calls come in from the unhappy students and parents. As a general rule, families are happy with the scheduling system when they get the classes they want, but are much less so when they don’t.
Besides these disadvantages there are others that have to do with semester classes that all year-long classes would solve.
Vivian Morris (‘17) said, “To me it is too much. We learn new topics on top of each other. We need space. We need time to absorb it. Sometimes I struggle because I can’t learn it in time for the test.”
Morris expressed a thought that many students and teachers share. Trying to cram nine months worth of material into four is difficult on the teenagers who are learning the information, but also on the teachers who have to change their curriculum to make sure everyone can learn the work faster.
Faster is the key word here, especially coming from the science department. In semester classes, science teachers have to set up a new lab nearly every day. With year-long classes, the same lab could be used for several days.
This complaint has made Biology and Earth Science year-long classes this year as opposed to the semester classes. Health and PE are also mostly year-long this year so that they can switch with another year-long class. This has lessened some of the scheduling conflicts for ninth and tenth graders.
Another problem with semester classes are the long breaks in between subsequent classes. This means that students could take Latin 2, then go 18 months before taking Latin 3. They forget a lot of the information they once knew.
Pro: There is also a big advantage to a semester class, assuming it fits into the student’s schedule. With this design, a student can take two math classes a year or two language classes in order to get to the AP level faster. Students can get caught up to a higher level if they were behind in middle school.
“Doubling up allows you to move up the ladder faster,” said Fenil Patel (‘17). “Before you know it, you’re in Trigonometry or some other high math class.”
Despite the complications of the hybrid scheduling, it is unclear whether all year-long schedules are completely favored over the hybrid schedule. There is no overwhelming majority favoring one side or the other, which makes change unlikely to happen.
Mr. Bonham explained what would need to happen in order for there to be a change from hybrid scheduling back to all year-long classes.
“I would never say never, but I would say that there has to be some kind of push for [change] to occur,” said Bonham. “There has to be a rationale.”
Some love the hybrid schedule, and some hate it, but for now simply a compilation of opinions aren’t enough to change anything. There will be another survey for teachers on their thoughts about the hybrid schedule in the future. For the time being, the administration will just continue to tweak the schedules to make it fit as best they can.
“We want the schedule to be driven by student requests and meeting the students’ needs,” said Mr. Bonham. “We are here for you. We want to make it so that we are able to give you what you want, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”