By Jackson Tacka
After nearly twenty-five years of seventy minute classes, bump periods, and 11:00 lunches, Gilman has redesigned the classic Upper School schedule for the 2019-2020 school year. Starting with the introduction of Wednesday Wellness last year, also known as the 9:00 AM start, the administration has continued this year with a second phase: a complete redesign of the day schedule––one that has been in use for over two decades.
So why change a schedule that has worked for longer than most current students have been alive? There are several reasons that prompted the changes to the schedule this upcoming school year. The first of which was the need to remove the often unproductive bump classes. Typically, the 40 minute drop-down classes during 4th period accomplished very little. However, it was not as easy as just removing bump since removing them would result in the loss of just under eleven hours each year. To combat this loss of instruction time, ten minutes was added to each class period, hence making the total instruction time comparable to previous versions of the schedule. Popularized by the Debate Club’s entertaining cross-examinations in assembly last Spring, the longer class periods have been a focal point of the discussion surrounding the schedule. Longer class periods are concerning to students who already have trouble focusing during the seventy minute classes and with some teachers running out of material to fill a full seventy minute class, the question is how will the Gilman classroom experience continue to be effective throughout the entirety of the eighty minute classes.
The second element to the redesign was the timing of lunch. Since all three divisions have to eat a reasonable time and can not all eat at the same time, lunch timings had to be changed. The new schedule will have lunch starting at 12:40 PM, nearly an hour later than the previous schedule’s lunch time. Not only will this make it easier for Upper School students who stay late at school for athletics and other commitments to get through the entire day, instead of solely the academic day, but it will also mean the lower school students would get to eat earlier in the day, as opposed to post-Upper School lunch time they had with the previous schedule. However, for students who live farther away from school and eat breakfast earlier in the day, a lunch time now ninety minutes later than normal causes concern. Devin Grinnage (’20), a resident of Westminster who undergoes roughly an hour drive to school each day explained, “Many students have a long commute in the mornings and have to hurry out of the house with only a quick bite to eat. So it will become hard to focus at some points in that long period of time between breakfast and lunch.” Additionally, assembly has also been moved back, just following the Upper School lunch period. This means that the beloved senior privilege that came with a third free period no longer exists, since they must now stay on campus until assembly at 1:10 as opposed to 10:45 last year.
Perhaps the most significant change to the schedule is the part of the day that occurs after assembly. In place of a flimsy club schedule that has been tweaked every year to no avail, the new schedule will have every minute after assembly dedicated to clubs, community engagement, and other commitments such as labs, band, and Glee Club. The administration hopes that the reconfiguration of periods in the afternoon will lead to more accessible options for clubs to meet and less conflicts for students who participate in multiple scholastic, athletic, and extracurricular endeavors.
To address the concerns with the new schedule, the student body looks to the faculty who orchestrated this design in the first place: The Scheduling Committee. Consisting of administrators and faculty from various departments across the Upper School, this faculty group created a schedule they believe will make the learning experience better, and are already addressing student concerns. For example, they are encouraging teachers to use extra time for creative learning and one-on-one instruction, moving the fruit cart to the morning instead of the afternoon, and allowing seniors off-campus as long as they return for assembly at 1:10. Though this schedule change has been planned for a long time, Mr. Heubeck notes that the schedule is something that they are still working to perfect, and that next year’s schedule will likely be slightly different from this year’s schedule after seeing how this year goes. While this new schedule is an area of uncharted territory for all of us, Student Body President Paul Stoller (’20) reflects, “I’m extremely optimistic about the new schedule. It fixes many of the issues that were present with the old one, such as short changeover periods. There’s a lot more freedom in the second half of the day which is exciting. Once people become acclimated to the routine and the later lunch period, the schedule will be even better for us. It’s just going to take some getting used to.”