By Analisa Sofia Perez and Christina Velez
The new bell schedule that has been implemented across all Summit campuses for the 2019-20 school year ー which includes removing the brunch break in favor of offering breakfast before school starts, as well as starting school five minutes later and ending five minutes earlier ー has raised cause for concern in the Rainier community.
Rainier students have visibly expressed their opposition toward the new schedule, even going as far as organizing a protest against the restricted blacktop usage, which was another result of the new change.
However, students are not the only people pushing back against this new schedule and other changes made this year. Rainier teachers shared their own opinions about having inadequate preparation for the sudden changes, less prep time and a lack of control over projects.
When asked how much input Rainier teachers were able to give regarding the new changes, several teachers said they were not able to provide much feedback.
Rainier chemistry teacher Edward Lin explained, “I was not given much by way of opportunities for input.” He said the schedules were “kind of ruled out” before the teachers showed up for the start of the current school year and then it felt like “‘Hey, here’s the new schedule’ … we didn’t have a chance to say what we felt.”
However, other teachers, such as Rainier English teacher Sunli Kim said, “We were allowed to give feedback on a huge document that all teachers had access to, and we could also scroll through and look at all the feedback and suggestions the teachers at other schools were making.”
Even so, all Rainier teachers who were interviewed agreed the decisions felt out of their control and the suggestions they could give were limited.
Regarding changing the time food is served to the students, Mr. Lin said, “We just didn’t have that much context as to why these decisions were made and whether there was really any evidence as to this being better for students”
Lack of prep time
Prep time is the dedicated time that teachers are given to prepare any work or resources for their classes. When teachers are given less of this time, that could possibly affect students.
When asked how the new schedule changes have affected the amount of prep time for teachers, Rainier history teacher Stuart Morris said, “Pretty significantly. It cut down on our prep time by … I think it was around a third less prep time compared to last year.” He explained how he, along with many other teachers, has been taking time out of his personal day to make up for the rest of the prep time teachers are no longer given during the school day.
Mr. Morris added that even with less prep time, Rainier teachers are having to take on more duties: “We have more responsibilities — with other classes and Reads and Solves and all that kind of stuff — we didn’t have last year.”
Loss of teacher control
The new schedule not only affects the structure of student and teachers’ days, but also the content that is being taught to students. For example, teachers and students have begun to notice an adjustment in the amount of SDL (Self-Directed Learning) time (previously called PLT or Personalized Learning Time) they are receiving.
SDL, which is currently a class that is the same length as a core class block, is time for students to independently complete academic work. It has been reported that students are now receiving about 2-3 hours less a week of SDL time than under last year’s schedule.
For teachers like Mr. Lin, this year’s changes also mean having to adjust to an entirely new school year’s worth of curriculum. In the six years that Mr. Lin has been at Rainier, the chemistry curriculum has mostly stayed the same, while still allowing teachers to refine and perfect it. However, this year, the chemistry curriculum was completely redone.
Mr. Lin said, “They just kind of decided to scrap the entire old curriculum and basically create a new one from scratch. And they did this without really any teacher input or teacher feedback, and, so, I found out about the change a week before school started … so that’s been frustrating to navigate and to deal with.”
Additionally, Mr. Lin was unhappy to see that the new curriculum was not fully fleshed out by the start of the school year. This, paired with the fact that several content assessments had no resources or tests designed, in his eyes, is a result of “high unprofessionalism” on Summit Leadership’s behalf.
“It’s really hard as a teacher — you want to have, like, a big-picture view of, like, what do I really want kids to walk away understanding at the end of the school year,” Mr. Lin said. “And it’s hard to do that if the plans aren’t really in place on the first day of school.”
Supporting students through change
Due to the pushback coming from students about the new changes, Ms. Kim explained how she tries to make the day easier on her students: “Overall, I’m just a lot more intentional about how I’m inserting structured and unstructured breaks … I’m more mindful about, like, what the work time looks like so that students don’t feel burnt out by the end of the day.”
With the new schedule, students are expected to sit through three back-to-back hour-and-a-half-long classes until their first and only break at lunch. Classes are also divided by a five-minute transition time; however, it is clear that teachers and students feel that does not compensate for the four and a half hours spent sitting through their classes.
Though Rainier teachers and students have been trying to adjust, there are still several negative outcomes stemming from the bell schedule change that they are not happy about: limited ways for teachers to give feedback on schedule changes; less prep time; and tired students.
Members of the Rainier community have been advocating for changes to help address some of these concerns. Their petition can be viewed here.