Due to the pandemic, the class schedule at Belmont Hill has changed from the normal three days of 40 minute blocks and two days of long blocks to the new four days of long blocks and one day of 40 minute blocks. As we progress through the year, the question of whether or not we should continue with this new schedule or revert back to our old schedule, or even a compromise between the two come fall. With the new schedule comes some pros and cons.
In this newly formalized schedule, there has been a considerable reduction of class meetings per week, even though the in-class time levels out with last year. With this alteration, students only have to prepare for the full five classes once per week (before Wednesdays), meaning homework tends to be more spread out between the week. Furthermore, with the newly-lengthened advisory time, more DEI work has been included along with a plethora of other events. This advisory block has overall been a helpful change in our schedule, and should be taken into consideration when deciding what the schedule should be like next year.
Also with the new schedule, Wednesdays have become (regrettably) remote, starting at 8:30 AM, similar to the “normal” late start. With this remote day, teachers have sometimes made classes optional or asynchronous, allowing students to have even more of a relaxing and calming day instead of attending Zoom meetings for the full duration of all class periods. Students have benefitted from this asynchronous day, with the ability to sleep in and to have less actual synchronous class time. This idea of asynchronous classes should be taken into consideration as well in developing the new schedule, even when considering our in-person future ahead.
Lastly, the new schedule has allowed for students either to opt out of sports or to attend drama and theater — flexibility that didn’t exist in the past. Once classes end at 1:30 PM, some students choose to stay at school to attend sports, just as with previous years, but also have the ability to go home and rest or to engage in the drama program. In previous years, the schedule did not place as much emphasis on the theater program, but this new schedule does.
Despite its many benefits, the current operating schedule for the school is an enormous disruption to the usual business at Belmont Hill. Although athletics and sports practices are still offered as optional choices to students, they only run for two days per week and have much less choice as well as games. This is often seen as a disadvantage of the present schedule due to the lack of sports engagements.
The pandemic schedule is also characterized by its serious inflexibility and little free time. Students have far less time to meet their teachers for extra help. They also lost most of their social time outside of classes as the school expects students to leave campus as soon as classes end. This greatly reduced the time students spend with their peers chatting, eating lunch together, or just hanging out. While COVID prevention is a source of the limits on social activity, even reasonable and safe social time has been cut to its minimum these past twelve months.
While all the classes have at least one day via Zoom and the majority of extra help are done through Zoom as well, clubs are usually forced to have Zoom meetings when no in-person option exists. Many students have complained about the excessive integration of Zoom into their daily life — Zoom fatigue has invaded our school like many others. With the new schedule, not only Zoom is often used for classes, club activities are looking into a screen as well.
While the pandemic schedule has its advantages and disadvantages, it is designed to be a balance between the danger of COVID infection and having a class experience as similar to previous years as possible (and, simply, as productive). Returning to the old schedule will certainly bring students and faculties a sense of normalcy in this turbulent time because they are familiar with it, so we look forward to the return of the old schedule. Nevertheless, the pandemic is in some ways a valuable opportunity for the school to change its operation before settling back in to another rigid schedule.