By Keely Wiese
December 19, 2014
Every December, rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders at Monticello enter their class
requests for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately, not everyone gets their dream
courses. Instead of getting to pick Photography or Culinary Arts, they are stuck with
a less desirable class. Instead of being able to take the AP class they wanted, they are
stuck with a less rigorous course. This results in disappointed students in August when
they find out that they are unable to take the classes they had been hoping for. These
complications are due to the hybrid scheduling.
If so many students don’t get what they want, what is the purpose of course requests?
Every year, students enter their requests so the administrators can get an idea of how
many people want to take certain classes. From that information, they decide which
courses should be semester classes, which should be year-long, and how many different
blocks of that class should be offered.
The intention of submitting course requests is to try and ensure that more students
get their top choices, but too often it leads to disappointment. After course requests
in December, students lay out their perfect schedule with their counselors. Yet, it isn’t
until August when the schedules are combined that it is revealed that the students can’t
have all the classes they want. There are often gaps in their schedules, and in order to
fill them, the students have two options; they can either take a study hall and sacrifice
possible credits, or they can take an elective they didn’t want to take.
This is only one of the downfalls of hybrid scheduling, and just one reason why
administrators are looking at the possibility of switching back to year-long schedules.
Five years ago, all four high schools in Albemarle County switched from year-long
scheduling to hybrid scheduling. This means that instead of having every class either
every day for a semester or every other day for the entire year, a student could have a
mixture of semester and year-long classes. The mixture of semester class and year-long
classes is called the hybrid schedule. After only a year, Western and Albemarle high
schools switched back to the old scheduling of year-long classes.
Today Murray High School loves this style of scheduling; it functions to their needs.
Murray teachers found that having the same class every day instead of every other day
helped the students learn more efficiently. Therefore, the majority of Murray’s classes
are semester classes, and they only offer a handful of year-long courses. Monticello,
on the other hand, offers roughly the same amount of semester classes and year-long
classes. The sheer fact that there are almost equal numbers of these courses is part of
why it is so difficult to create the master schedule and the individual student schedules.
Monticello High School is merely waiting for sufficient tangible data before it switches
back to the previous schedule format.
There are some benefits to the semester classes. In theory, students have the
opportunity to take more academic classes in a year. They can double up in either a
language or a math class in order to get to higher levels faster.
This kind of scheduling sounds good written on paper, but in reality, how often does
the concept actually work?
Very often a student will want to double up, but it doesn’t fit into their schedule. Then,
due to the semester classes, the student may have to wait up to twelve months before
taking the next level of the class. At this point the student will have forgotten a majority
of what they learned, leading to even more time in the next class devoted to review of
the previous material. This leaves less time in the already shortened class to learn new
To recap: hybrid scheduling is very difficult to organize every year. It leads to
disappointment, and though it sounds good in theory, students are often forced to learn
information faster and then given big gaps in which they can forget what they learned.
With so many reasons against block scheduling and semester classes, what is standing
in the way to make the switch back to year-long scheduling?
The administrators need tangible data that the system is failing, such as test scores
significantly lower with the semester classes over year-long classes. Opinions are not
Plenty of students in the past haven’t gotten the class they wanted, or have forgotten the
class content months later. Parents, students, and teachers alike have opinions on the
semester classes and many want to switch back. However, simple opinions won’t change
anything. Someone needs to come up with a plan and set it into action in order to make
the switch back to the old scheduling. Without an action plan, Monticello will continue
what it has been doing for the past five years: sticking with the hybrid scheduling and
doing the best it can to make it fit to each individual’s needs.
Mr. Bonham, who at this point is in charge of collecting the data to back an argument
for change, isn’t optimistic that Monticello will switch back to year long any time soon.
“I don’t see anything in the works for next year that would make any dramatic changes
in the courses.”
It is going to take decisive action for anything to change. Whatever this action may be
and whoever may be the driving force, it just needs to be someone who cares enough
about the hybrid scheduling to make a plan to do something about it.