A Return to Normalcy: The Dropping Schedule
BY EMILY XU '23
For the past few years at ABRHS, a new school year has come with a new schedule. However, the 2021–2022 school year marks the return to the “seven drop one schedule,” which debuted in fall 2019. Previously, students attended all seven of their classes every day, and each class was around forty-five minutes. With the dropping schedule, students drop one class every day and have fifty-seven minute-long periods. This dropped class becomes a student’s first period class the next school day, so students have classes at different times of day. Noticing that students and staff alike were satisfied with the dropping schedule, administrators reimplemented it for the 2021–2022 school year. These scheduling changes are beginning to bridge the gap between administrative decisions and community input.
Beth Baker, an associate principal at ABRHS, expressed that many factors went into the decision-making behind the “seven drop one” schedule. Since 2014, the district has explored different scheduling options and has garnered input from over one thousand students, six hundred parents/guardians, and one hundred faculty responses. Stanford University’s Challenge Success program, which offers strategies to increase student engagement and wellbeing, was also considered. Moreover, Franklin and Westford’s dropping schedules served as inspiration. “We were looking at five goal areas,” explained Ms. Baker, including “longer class periods for more time to do some extended learning … an increase in the likelihood that students wouldn’t have homework every day or too many assessments on any given day … student wellness … maintaining a reasonable length for our lunch period … and a way to gain back lost minutes from the later start times.” With longer periods, teachers could spend more time on collaborative work and project-based learning; dropping a class decreased homework, improving student wellbeing. Ms. Baker noted that some teachers were concerned with the dropping schedule from a planning standpoint, but overall, the benefits associated with the dropping schedule outweighed these costs.
Why did the dropping schedule fail to return for the 2020–2021 school year? Ms. Baker explained it simply: “because of the hybrid schedule, we weren’t able to do it.” Maurin O’Grady, an associate principal, added that “had last year been a typical year and COVID-19 didn’t exist, [the schedule] would have [returned].” When choosing to reimplement the “seven drop one” schedule this year, Ms. Baker expressed that administrators were concerned about yet another change for students and faculty. “People have been through a lot of change. I like what this schedule has to offer in terms of the goals we have around extended learning, but it’s another change. I was particularly worried about that for teachers: now they’ve had to pivot multiple times within a short period of time.”
Does the “seven drop one” schedule improve student welfare? Many students, including senior Aparna Kamath, believe so. Aparna remarked that she “prefer[s] it because it gives you a break from a class every day, which helps to destress. There’s also less of a rush to finish your homework every night.” Aparna added, “With the dropping schedule, I can see more of my friends at different times for lunch. There’s less monotony to our schedule, and it’s refreshing to have classes at different times.” She did note that remembering what day it and color it was (ex: Blue G Day) is sometimes difficult, but the advantages far outweigh this minor complaint. Overall, it’s clear that the dropping schedule has achieved its goals and even exceeded expectations in specific areas.
The scheduling changes are merely one example of initiatives taken to involve student voices in administrative decisions. The success of the dropping schedule may be the start of a closer relationship between students and administration. Who knows what next year will bring? There may even be a period dedicated to petting therapy alpacas!