By Zack Navarra
Change is simply inevitable, but how and when we change should be determined by the people who will be affected most. Summit Shasta students and faculty have seen radical changes to the daily bell schedule over the past year, and many have something to say about it.
Summit Shasta students and faculty arrived on campus on Aug. 17 for the start of the 2019-20 school year awaiting something entirely new. The previous year’s schedule at Shasta consisted of a block schedule in which every core class was completed before lunch; students would then finish their day with two different personalized flex time classes.
The 2018-19 Friday schedule featured all-day Mentor SDL (Self-Directed Learning). Mentors being the Summit equivalent of homeroom teachers, SDL is the Summit equivalent of study hall.
For 2019-20, Summit schools transitioned to a schedule that no longer features brunch, Flex Time and Friday Mentor SDL, while seeing the additions of daily Mentor SDL, a 45-minute block Wednesday schedule where students attend all of their core classes, Summit Reads and Solves (English and math intervention) and an earlier school release time.
The new Wednesday schedule incorporates a 90-minute block dedicated to mentor community time. This is then followed by three 45-minute blocks; each of these blocks are from a student’s Monday schedule. Students then have a 35-minute lunch break. Finally this is followed by three more 45-minute blocks; each of those are from a student’s Tuesday schedule.
For many students, these changes came without warning. Shasta senior Allen Estrada said he “learned just three days before school started,” while Shasta junior Aaron Susantin said, “I saw it on my schedule the first or second day of school.”
Many students did not learn of the new bell schedule until they received their class schedules days before school started. Senior President Jessica Co is one of these students. She said, “Like most students, I learned a week before school started.”
The new schedule has presented multiple problems for the student population at Shasta. The two largest for the Shasta student populace are the lack of brunch and the new Wednesday schedule, which students would prefer to have as Friday’s schedule.
Students have not been shy in expressing their displeasure to their mentors and student representatives. According to senior mentor and English teacher Chelsea Watts, “If you polled my mentor group, 25 out of 25 of them would say I would rather have brunch back.”
Shasta Junior Class President Melissa Elizarde said, “Many people do not like that we don’t have brunch anymore.”
Students have reported feeling increased levels of hunger throughout the day. Susantin said, “My biggest annoyance is there wasn’t brunch; I get hungry in the middle of the day.”
Susantin’s sentiment is replicated in Estrada, who said, “We no longer have brunch; I have to get up earlier and make myself heartier breakfast. That way I don’t feel so hungry throughout my classes. Despite that, I still feel pretty hungry.” The loss of brunch ultimately leads to some students feeling higher levels of hunger throughout the day.
Students at Shasta have also expressed their dislike of the newly implemented Wednesday schedule, where students attend one 90-minute block of mentor community time followed by three blocks of mentor SDL. According to senior mentor and history teacher Sarah Dayon, “The Wednesday schedule has been the one thing students have particularly said they dislike.”
This sentiment is expressed by Senior President Co, who said, “I think that the Wednesday schedule is really draining for them because usually we have had a different schedule on Friday, and it’s indicative of the weekend and you get a break, but you’re just coming back to core classes after Wednesday.”
Co continued, “In general, Wednesday schedule feels really long, because you have half a day going through a full day, and then you have lunch and it’s like starting your day over again.” Students have not been afraid of expressing the stress and strain that can be caused by the Wednesday schedule.
Shasta students have felt an added strain since the introduction of the new Wednesday schedule. Shasta senior Gabe Garfias said, “They kinda surprised me this year. You don’t really think about something until it’s gone, Fridays [SDL] especially were a time for me to get a lot of work done. But now that they are not here, it’s kinda sad and it’s throwing me off a lot.”
The new schedule has managed to bring some improvements to the average student’s life. Elizarde said juniors “find it mainly positive; there are some things they don’t like, but overall I think they’re doing pretty OK with getting used to the new schedule.” She continued by saying, “People are taking advantage of PLT in the morning.” Senior President Co believes that, “It’s helped them with catching the bus on time; it’s helped them get home an hour earlier, and that’s like the main difference.”
One of the most popular changes among students would be the shift to an earlier lunch. Susantin said, “Lunch period moving closer to noon is nicer. It aligns with when I would normally eat lunch.” Students have been able to find silver linings in the new schedule that will help their day-to-day lives at Shasta.
Summit Shasta teachers have experienced their own benefits and reservations about the new schedule.
Teachers at Shasta first learned of the possible schedule changes in the spring of 2019. According to Ms. Dayon, “In the spring they had rolled out three possible schedules that they had proposed; they had talked to school leaders to inform their decision. They presented it to teachers, and we were supposed to give input, but we had no decision-making power.” The Shasta teachers’ role was to provide feedback on which schedule they liked the most, but they had little voice in what those three schedules were, Ms. Dayon explained.
Additionally, Ms. Watts said, “I will say that of the three possibilities that were offered, none of those three ended up being the schedule that we have right now, so the schedule we have right now was not actually one of the three possibilities.” The schedule implemented at the beginning of this school year had two major differences from the one Shasta teachers favored in the spring. The first being that none of the proposed schedules indicated the removal of brunch, and the second being that the current Wednesday schedule was originally proposed to take place on Friday. Teachers became aware of the official schedule in late July.
Shasta faculty have expressed that the lack of brunch has caused certain inconveniences. Ms. Watts said, “As many of our students have expressed, it’s really tough to get to the bathroom or do anything during those five minutes, especially if I am expected to transition into new classroom.”
Brunch provided an essential time for students and faculty to use the bathroom, interact with others, and prepare for their next class. Now the only time to do that is the five-minute transition periods between core classes. Considering that Shasta teachers often must move to different rooms throughout the day and that there are only three adult bathrooms on campus, it can be nearly impossible for Shasta teachers to use the bathroom from the start of school up until lunch, according to Ms. Watts.
Teachers have also expressed that they had originally expected the Wednesday schedule to be on Friday. According to Ms. Dayon, “We had originally hoped that the Wednesday schedule would be on Friday. It seemed like something most teachers were giving a lot of input to.” The teachers had pushed for this in order to have a different schedule be toward the end of the week, instead of the middle of the week.
Teachers have found some changes to be extremely beneficial and an overall positive to their day-to-day life. Ms. Dayon said, “I have appreciated being able to see my mentor group every day for longer than 10 minutes.” Previously, mentors only had a guaranteed 10 minutes a day to see their students during “10-minute time.” Under the new schedule, mentors have a guaranteed 70 minutes a day to see their students during mentor SDL.
Ms. Watts shared a similar sentiment regarding the morning SDL when she said, “I think that having mentor PLT [now called SDL] every morning has been a pretty positive shift; I also think that not having all day PLT means that our PLT is more productive on the whole.” Through this change, teachers have been able to more meaningfully connect with students while simultaneously increasing student productivity.
Shasta and Summit administration have been working on possible schedule changes since as early as December 2018. According to Superintendent Anson Jackson, “We had essentially 11 schools last year — 15 schools with like 20 schedules — and so, um, I’m exaggerating, but we had a lot of schedules, and it was very complex, and we took the best of those and iterated to make three different schedules, what worked, what didn’t work, what teachers liked, didn’t like. Those became the three different models.” At this point in time, teachers from Shasta were not directly involved; however, Shasta administration was involved at this point.
In the spring of 2019, Shasta teachers were given the three different schedules to give input on. According to Superintendent Jackson, “We said, ‘OK, teachers we have three models. Let’s look at them, which ones you like the best.’ That information is then referred back to the scheduling team, the Home Office team to figure out, which is made up of leaders and an operational lead to make sure we are fitting the constraints of the state, the requirements. They will say, ‘OK, this is what teachers agreed upon, now give feedback on.’” It was at this point in time that teacher input was being incorporated into the bell schedule plan.
However, there were still phases after teacher selection, like ensuring that schedules fitted local and state requirements. At this point in time, Shasta teachers were no longer providing feedback to the scheduling team at Summit’s home office. According to Superintendent Jackson, in the period between spring 2019 and July 2019, “Local admin were in conversations throughout the whole rollout.”
During this period of time, the current Wednesday schedule was finalized. According to Superintendent Jackson, “A number of factors — it came to the point where it became almost an idea, like, we had various schools wanting different things. Some schools wanted the Wednesday; some wanted the Friday. Then we looked at, ‘How do we stay consistent?’ The other piece was that consistency allows for a strong Community Day. So we wanted to have Community Day, as you guys know, at every school to have some idea of, like, if we wanted to do something like a peer-to-peer cross-schools Community Day where we have Shasta and Rainier do like the VC together, that allows for that to happen. When we have different days, it’s hard to have that collaboration peer-to-peer support when it’s not consistent. The idea was to say, ‘OK, they want Friday; they want Wednesday. How do you mitigate? What’s the driving force?’ The driving force was collaboration and consistency, which is why we chose Wednesday.”
The removal of brunch and the addition of breakfast was also implemented during this period of time. Brunch was dropped from the schedule in favor of breakfast, which is a 10-minute period right before school starts where breakfast is served to students.
Shasta Executive Director Wren Maletsky said, “One of the reasons we are excited to have breakfast instead is we want to make sure we’re offering an opportunity for all students to have the nutrition and energy they need to start the day. So we thought including breakfast as a way to make sure that all students got that. We also have talked a lot as a faculty about if a student is late or they missed that opportunity, like, how do we make sure they still have the energy they need? So we always have food stocked in the office, a student can definitely let their teacher mentor know at any point. But what we did and what happened is students waiting several hours into the school day before they get to eat anything, because we know that not what’s best for students aligning.”
The addition of breakfast might have been intended to offset the loss of brunch while providing benefits for students, but it has fallen short for many students and faculty at Shasta. Previously, Shasta students had to wait three hours and five minutes between brunch and lunch. Now students must wait four hours and 10 minutes in-between their breakfast and lunch meals. This has led to many students feeling hungrier throughout the day.
Furthermore, brunch was more than just a morning meal for many on campus. Students used it as a time to socialize with classmates, use the bathroom, and prepare for class, along with eat their morning meal. Teachers used this time to meet with students, use the bathroom and transition to different classrooms. Simply put, breakfast can not provide the same benefits that brunch did for students and faculty.
Implementing the Wednesday schedule has caused additional grievances among many students and some teachers. Shasta students must now deal with homework being due the next day in a block schedule system. Students now are being assigned homework on Tuesday that is required by Wednesday. This creates an inequality for students who have that class on Monday; they receive an extra day to do their homework. This inequality goes both ways: students can be assigned homework on Wednesday and have it due the next day, while others won’t be required to finish until Friday.
This also creates a situation where students will have class on Friday, but be unable to attend Office Hours for help until the upcoming Tuesday. The Wednesday schedule has created unfair logistical problems for students at Shasta.
If the current Wednesday schedule were to be held on Friday, these problems would be avoided. The reason it is on Wednesday does not seem to outweigh the benefits for Shasta students. Community Time at Shasta is used as a time for mentor groups to focus on themselves; that time has rarely been used for communicating with other mentor groups, let alone with other schools. Therefore, it seems that Shasta students would benefit more from having their 45-minute classes on Fridays.
According to Superintendent Jackson,“We want to make sure what’s thoughtful, what’s best for students — thinking long-term, we hope that these adjustments aren’t going to be a one-and-done. We hope the data proves that it’s better, and you guys feel more engaged and feel supported. However, if something happens, we are open to feedback and will make those shifts.”
The schedule changes brought to Shasta affect students and teachers the most, yet there are clear problems that afflict the students and teachers. Students have the power to voice opinions and push for change through advocacy. To better the experience of Shasta students, brunch should be reinstated and the current Wednesday schedule should be switched to Friday.
Featured Image: Shasta students transition between classes. PHOTO CREDIT: Zack Navarra