Six classes a day, 4:20 dismissal highlight new block schedule for 2012-13

Ariela Feitelberg, Web Managing Editor

Colleen Bazak, Co-Editor in Chief

A new rotating block schedule, with six longer classes a day instead of eight shorter ones, will take effect when school starts later this month, according to General Studies Principal Mr. Roy Danovitch.
Classes will meet six times in two weeks instead of four times every week, and each class will meet for one hour instead of 47 minutes. Lunch will be just one minute shorter at 46 minutes, and school will be let out at 4:20 p.m. instead of 4:45.
“Some people might look at it as we are losing more class sessions,” Mr. Danovitch said. “But [more class meetings] doesn’t always help students. It leads to homework overload and when you have nine shorter classes a day, that doesn’t allow you to have meaningful experiences in each class. Students are going to gain much deeper engagement in each class and not have those crazy days.”
Science teacher Mr. Christopher Buckley, who organized and created the details of the new schedule, said there would be 10 fewer minutes per week for each class, compared to last year. Every day but Friday there are 17 fewer class time minutes over the course of the day.
Two different week-long schedules will alternate. To differentiate them, the first week is titled ‘Fire,’ and the second is ‘Hawk.’
In addition, a brand new introduction will be something called SWAP, or school-wide activity period. Once every two weeks, students will have an hour-long period to meet with co-curricular committees, do homework, or make up a test. The period will also be used sometimes for assemblies.
“Students will have an hour-long block,” Mr. Danovitch said, “and it is up to them to use that time effectively, because I don’t believe that students should be overscheduled.”
During the non-SWAP week, that time will be used for Advisory, which will now meet for a full hour every other week instead of the weekly 35 minutes last year. Town Hall will remain once every week, but it will alternate between Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Mr. Buckley said the new schedule was based on one used by Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, alma mater of new Judaic Studies Principal Mr. Noam Weissman.
“Our new schedule is actually simpler than that of Beth T’filoh,” said Mr. Buckley, “and some helpful conversations with Rabbi [Aaron] Frank of that school allowed me to understand how this schedule fundamentally works.”
Mr. Buckley, who began working on the schedule in May, added that he thinks the new schedule will be beneficial to his own math and chemistry classes.
Mr. Danovitch mentioned at the last Town Hall of last year that a new schedule was coming, so students have been wondering what it would be like. Reaction to the rough outline was mixed.
“I’m not crazy about every class being an hour,” said senior Rachel Friedman. “I’d rather last year’s schedule in terms of it being more classes with less time, but I think SWAP sounds pretty good.”
Sophomore Tom Amzalag was more optimistic.
“I’m really excited about it because now teachers have more time to teach which will result in better scores,” Tom said. “Also a student will not have to worry about having the usual eight classes a day and can prepare themselves for only those six classes.”
Although Mr. Danovitch thinks the schedule will bring some “growing pains,” he is looking forward to the change.
“This is legitimately the biggest structural change to Shalhevet since I have been at the school,” Mr. Danovitch said. “It’s the biggest change to the model that supports our educational value.”