Finally! Three months of give and take yield a compromise new schedule

Adam Kellner, Staff Writer

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Many students were furious when they arrived on the first day of school and saw the year’s new bell schedule, which consisted of nine 45-minute periods for the first time ever with only one break, a shorter, 40-minute lunch, and a mandatory in-school Mincha for the first time since 2007-08.

The complaints were far-ranging and deep.

“If you’re buying your lunch, then half of your lunch time is wasted standing in line,” said sophomore Yael Wiener on the first day of school.

“This year’s schedule makes it even harder to concentrate during our nine-hour school days,” wrote junior Rachel Lester on the Opinion page of The Boiling Point.

Others worried that committees would not be able to meet.

“In 40 minutes, which turns into 30 minutes by the time everybody gets there, it can’t all happen,” said senior Lauren Mohabber.

Some of these gripes persisted throughout the fall, with teachers complaining that there wasn’t enough time to give makeup tests and many students saying that the day was just too long – even though it was no longer than in past years.  The difference was that Town Hall, Advisory,  morning “snack” break and other things that used to break up the day had all been moved to Fridays, and the classes that used to be held on Fridays had been moved to the other days of the week.

“I really didn’t like having all classes every day, a shorter lunch, and having only one day to do my homework for each class instead of last year’s two days,” said junior Nathan Rossi earlier this month.

The Agenda Committee made the new schedule the second Town Hall of the year, and a long process was begun to see if a compromise could be reached.

“It was a topic that was on everybody’s mind,” said history teacher Dr. Jill Beerman, who is in charge of Just Community matters. “Everyone on the committee was bringing in complaints from students about the new schedule. With all of the complaints it seemed appropriate to hold a town hall on the schedule.”

At Town Hall, General Studies Principal Mr. Tranchi said people with better ideas should put them into writing and they would be considered.

Mr. Tranchi and Agenda Chair Toby Bern set to work writing new schedules that were closer variations on those in years past.  But meanwhile sophomore Daniel Schwartz, not even a member of the Agenda Committee, went to work on a plan that would lead to early dismissal.  Among ideas that had surfaced in the discussion was a wish that school could let out at 4:30 instead of 5 pm.

Toby’s, Mr. Tranchi’s and Daniel’s proposals were all presented at Town Hall Oct. 8. A non-binding “advisory” vote on the four schedules – the three new proposals plus this year’s original schedule — was held Oct. 11.

Daniel Schwartz’s schedule won in a landslide, receiving almost 80 percent of the votes among students and teachers.

After that, there was no news for a while as Mr. Tranchi polled parents and tried to decide what to do. Rumors circulated from time to time that a new schedule was coming, but Mr. Tranchi told The Boiling Point, “When it happens, it won’t be a rumor.  You’ll know.”

By late November, the parents, too, had voted overwhelmingly to approve Daniel Schwartz’s schedule, by a margin of about 3 to 1, according to Mr. Tranchi.

On Nov. 19 Mr. Tranchi announced there would be a new schedule that would be a tweaked version of Daniel Schwartz’s schedule, and that it hopefully would go into effect Dec. 1.

He said changes would be made in order to address parents’ concerns that class time would be missed and that some parents could not pick up carpool 30 minutes earlier.

Also, the tweaks dealt with changing the schedule to fit the available times for part-time teachers.

“I added minutes to class meetings so that we would not fall below last year,” Mr. Tranchi said. “The major concern was instructional time so that changed dismissal. I also had to change the rotations of classes because of part time teachers’ schedules.”

But there was a weeklong delay for Chanukah, when special Judaic Studies programs set a different special schedule for every day.

Finally, a brand-new schedule went into effect Dec. 13, one that not only returned to previous years’ rotating eight-period days but also dismissed school for the first time at 4:45 pm.

Daniel said he had “mixed emotions” because the dismissal time wasn’t 4:30, but he was happy about the rest.

“Having seven or eight periods a day will not only help the students academically by having two more minutes per period, but will also enable them to focus more in class,” Daniel said.

Dr. Beerman was pleased with the student contribution to the process.

“I think the most constructive thing was that people were inspired to submit their own ideas and schedules,” she said.

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