“The [current] schedule is confusing. Each week it changes and it is hard to follow and remember what is happening what day. Even teachers do not know the schedule most of the time, and the ones [who] claim they do get it wrong sometimes,” says Oyster River High School student Connor Barski (‘18). It was not initially clear how this year’s modified schedule would play out, but as issues have arisen, a replacement schedule has been proposed.
As the first semester has played out, students and teachers alike have been affected by the shift. Some of the most significant alterations include shorter classes and office hours being moved to the end of the day. The schedule was created this year in response to the new start time, with the school day beginning at 8:15 am instead of 7:35 am, and a desire to leave a period of time that student athletes could miss at the end of the day for games. As this schedule was only intended to be a placeholder until a stronger one could be developed, a new proposal has been crafted. The proposal will be examined by the ORHS School Board before it goes into effect.
ORHS Dean of Staff Mark Milliken sums up much of the feedback he’s received. “I still don’t know when classes end and begin, when lunch ends and begins. It’s so variable… Our current schedule seems too chaotic and the classes seem very very short. A lot of people have said that short classes, seven periods, felt very hectic.”
A common critique of the current schedule is that it is difficult to keep up with its near daily changes. The slot for office hours and advisory switches between the middle and end of the day and is frequently confused when events or delays affect the schedule. This sentiment is echoed by numerous students, as ORHS student Hannah-Jane Wilson (‘18), says, “the current schedule could be better. It bothers me to have my classes ending at different times every day because it’s hard to stay consistent.”
Milliken, who is the Chairperson of ORHS’ Scheduling Committee, describes the thought that has gone into a new, proposed schedule. “We tried to come up with a schedule that would be less hectic, a schedule that would allow students to get help and enrichment… For students who don’t need academic support or relearning, we wanted to build a schedule that would allow for things that go above and beyond.”
An ORHS class senator, Wilson has had a more in-depth view of the proposed schedule and feels positive about what it has to offer. “The idea of [this year’s] schedule seemed fine to me until I actually experienced it. Then I noticed the things that were wrong with it. [The proposed] schedule seems like it’s good. It seems less confusing than the one we have right now and more organized. Having block days more often is a really helpful thing. I think, for a lot of the classes that I’m in, it would have been really helpful to have this year.”
This proposed schedule seeks to fix many of the aforementioned flaws of this year’s schedule. The proposal offers longer classes that rotate between “Blue and White” block days and a “Bobcat” day with a more typical schedule.
The modification of office hours has invoked varied responses, as Wilson continues, “I do like having office hours at the end of the day because I can leave, but I understand that’s not the purpose of office hours. It’d be nice to have it in the middle of the day where I’d be more motivated to talk to teachers if I needed the help.”
“My biggest qualms are how on block days we no longer have office hours between [the first two blocks]. This really bothers me, because in the past, it’s been a really nice break between my classes,” says ORHS student Patty Andersen (‘19), commenting on the restructuring of block days to allow office hours at the end of the day.
This restructuring has necessitated further shortening of individual classes, leading many students and staff to feel that there isn’t enough time to work effectively.
Tracy Bilynsky, an art teacher at ORHS, has felt particularly affected. “We’ve shortened classes, we’ve shortened the moving time, we’ve added time to office hours, which shortens classes even more on certain days. I feel like I’m constantly shifting and shifting and shifting.”
Though their proposal is in it’s late stages, the scheduling committee is open to feedback from students and faculty alike.
“One of the main things we discovered is that we’re not going to please everybody. There are very many different needs in school…for some teachers, they value frequency more than length. Other teachers value length of class, they want to dive deeply into things,” Milliken recognizes the need for compromise, and hopes the proposed schedule will offer something for everyone. “I hope that we listened to staff and students. I hope that we’ve created something that will be better than it is now and will be something that we will grow into.”
“I hope that people don’t jump to conclusions. I hope that students and staff raise concerns now.” The assistant principal stresses the importance of keeping an open mind, especially before the School Board has examined the proposal. Until then, Milliken welcomes feedback and feels that there is still much deliberation necessary to create a suitable schedule.