75 minute classes. 45 minute lunches. Something called Compass??? For those of you who are wondering, or for those who want a reminder of what College Prep’s new schedule for next year will consist of, read on!
After the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation procedure required College Prep to create a “self-study” survey in 2013, the school has been looking at ways that it can improve its environment to better serve the student body. When asked in the survey how well College Prep upheld its mission statement and philosophy, the students and faculty’s responses made it clear that the mission of the school and the reality of everyday student and faculty life didn’t match up. Only 25% of teachers and 40% of students felt that Prep did a “very or extremely successful” job of upholding the seventh tenet of the school’s philosophy, “we integrate work and play, helping students realize the elements of a balanced life.” The results of the WASC study drove Ms. DeVane and other members of the faculty and staff to determine how College Prep could improve on the embodiment of this particular aspect of its mission statement.
Breaks, lunches, and free periods, created with the intention of giving students a time to hang out and do homework, are instead used for meetings with teachers, clubs, and making up tests. This loss of breaks and lunches has created an unbalanced school atmosphere, with students giving up their free time during the school day to attend numerous clubs and meet with teachers. Focusing on improving the balance between “work and play,” or in other words, homework and free time, Ms. DeVane created the Time Task Force (TTF), charged with “identifying the school’s values-based priorities for organizing time and then developing and proposing schedules that are more responsive to our priorities than is our current schedule,” or in other words, creating a new schedule for College Prep, one that would allow students to have more balance in their lives.
Examining the structure of other schools like College Prep, the Time Task Force, consisting of Sharona Barzilay, Lisie Harlow, Betsy Thomas, Mike Lane, Amanda Luckey, John Hines, and Preston Tucker, realized that Prep is one of the only schools in the Bay Area to have a schedule where classes meet every single day. The majority of schools in our area have some sort of block system, where classes can meet twice, thrice, or four times a week for periods longer than our 45-minute long classes. With this information in mind, the TTF began to craft a new schedule for the school. Some of the aspects of the current schedule they wanted to preserve in the new schedule were, “frequent contact with students in the classroom, Assemblies and PrepTalks, a common lunch period, and self-directed student-teacher conference time.” In addition to maintaining these aspects of student life, the TTF also aimed to “create some longer class blocks in the rotation [of the schedule], distribute the impact of early dismissals and diurnal rhythms, reschedule CAP and Sophomore Health to times other than break, and set aside protected time for studying and teacher meetings.”
The schedule that resulted from these goals is not a traditional block schedule. Instead, the schedule works on ten day cycle. On all days of the schedule, the order of the classes rotate, i.e. Week 1 begins with Class A on Monday, Class B on Tuesday, Class A on Wednesday, Class C on Thursday, and Class C on Friday. While this might seem confusing and slightly annoying, the TTF created the schedule like this to ensure that the same classes were not impacted by lateness or sleepiness every day. This way, if you’re tired during your first class or always late, Class A won’t always be impacted. The rotation centers on Class D, which always occurs before lunch. Assembly still happens twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays after the second class of the day.
Composed of two weeks, students meet for all their classes four out of the ten days of the cycle. On those days, classes are 45 minutes each, with a 35-minute long break and a 45-minute long lunch. Once in Week 1 and twice in Week 2, classes are stretched out over two days, with four classes on the first day and three on the second. These classes will be 75 minutes long, but there is never a time in the schedule when you have two 75-minute blocks back to back. There’s always a breaklet, a 15-minute long break, or periods for clubs, community activities, or enrichment activities to take place between each 75-minute class.
Further exploring the periods of time between blocks, it’s clear the TTF has built time into the schedule for clubs to meet, teachers to talk to students, and students to catch up with one another. The first two days of Week 1 are non-block days, or days that all classes meet. Wednesday is the start of the week’s block day. Common Classroom occurs between Class A and Class B, the first two classes that day. Designed to hold various “Leadership and School Service Programs, Student and Teacher Led Offerings, and programs of Academic Choice,” the Common Classroom period is planned to be used for the meetings of StuCo, the Diversity Leadership Council, the Community Action Team (CAT), the Captains’ Council, and Campus Clean Up. In addition, there is also the possibility of public speaking workshops, open Student Forums on Current Events, iOS App Programming courses and X-Lab workshops happening during this time. Students are also able to work collaboratively with one another on homework, participate in peer writing coaching workshops, meet with teachers, and spend time in the Learning Center. As you can probably tell, the Common Classroom period is filled with lots of different activities, but could also serve as a period where students can work on homework if they’re not in meetings with any of the groups that meet during that time. In between the second two blocks of the day is a breaklet, or a 15-minute passing period that students can use to catch up with friends or meet with teachers to ask a quick question.
On Thursday of Week 1, school starts at 9:05 because of an hour-long Faculty Collaboration period that takes place before school. This period functions as a time for the faculty to meet, similar to the hour-long break that we currently have on Tuesdays between 2nd and 3rd period. In between the first two classes of the day is a breaklet, again serving to give students a break between the 75-minute classes that day. After lunch is Compass, another new feature of the schedule. For underclassmen, Compass will be the time they meet for CAP or Sophomore Health. For upperclassmen, however, Compass will be a time for them to take classes in life skills, such as learning how to change a tire, how to pay your taxes, or how to make quick and easy meals. These classes will be taught by College Prep faculty and staff and students will get to pick which courses they want to attend, making sure their total surpasses the minimum number required. In the afternoon after their last class, students will have a 20-minute period called Tutorial, where teachers will be available to meet with them to discuss and answer any questions about the assignments or course material.
Week 2 begins with block days on Monday and Tuesday. Common Classroom is scheduled between the first two classes on Monday and a breaklet happens between the last two classes of the day. On Tuesday, Assembly and a short break separate the two classes before lunch. After lunch, a 20-minute mandatory advising check-in is scheduled to give students a time to meet with their advisors and advising groups. After the last class of the day, a Faculty Collaboration period releases students an hour early from school.
Wednesday is a day where all 7 class periods meet. On Thursday, however, another block begins. After the first class, there’s a 50-minute X Block. While it’s unclear what exactly this block will be used for, it will most likely be used for club meetings and teacher meetings. In between the last two classes of the day is another 15-minute long breaklet. On the Friday of Week 2, the last day of the ten day cycle, there are blocks for both Assembly and Community between the first and second classes of the day. The Community block will be used for all-school events such as Spirit days, or class meetings for elections and other class-related matters. The Compass block occurs after lunch on Fridays and a Tutorial block happens after the last class of the day.
While this schedule may seem intimidating and pointless to some people, it’s a step in the right direction for reducing stress and reestablishing balance within the lives of students here at College Prep. Your faculty and staff have worked long and hard to create a schedule that would encompass all of the activities at this school. By putting aside periods within the day for students to meet with their teachers and attend club meetings, the Time Task Force has done their best to uphold an important aspect of the school’s mission, to give students an opportunity to find a balance between their schoolwork and the rest of their life as teenagers.