An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Test driving a new schedule
Test driving a new schedule

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

Starting last year, the Middle School has been exploring the exciting idea of adopting a new daily class schedule. We have been motivated by two things. First, it has been ten years since we reviewed our schedule to determine whether it is meeting the needs of our students and program. Second, we were urged to do so by the team from Challenge Success, a research-based organization associated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education. (Read about our work with Challenge Success here.) Their research has shown that one of the most significant mechanisms for mitigating stress while retaining academic rigor is to carefully and intentionally manage time. The way a school distributes minutes in the day can either exacerbate or mitigate stress.

Last year, in meetings and through surveys, the Middle School faculty examined the strengths and weaknesses of our current schedule. From that input we developed a set of priorities and formed a committee that researched options and designed alternative schedules that met our identified needs and priorities. We read articles and looked at schedules for over 25 schools across the country. Committee members included faculty and staff from every department and discipline: Heather Butler, Nancy Canino, David Carrington, Jennifer Evans, Suzanne Granger, Matt Huston, Andrew Krus, Jamie Monkkonen, Meg Wolfe, and myself.

Our priorities included:

  • Maintaining all aspects of our current program including all classes, advisor time, frees, study halls, lunch, and community time.
  • Supporting student well-being through a less frenetic pace (which translates to longer periods with fewer transitions per day).
  • Supporting student learning through more consistent class time week-to-week (which translates to mitigating or eliminating the impact of short weeks and special schedules for things like speakers or outdoor trip prep meetings).

The committee designed two potential schedules and vetted them with the faculty this fall. We took their feedback and created a schedule that we believe has the potential to meet all the priorities; improve the experience of students and families; and maintain the excellence and rigor of our academic program.

Here is the big news: We will pilot this new schedule Jan. 23-Feb. 15, 2019. Running a pilot will enable us to make a truly informed decision about which schedule to use in 2019-2020 and beyond. This pilot will have no impact on the material covered during the course. During the pilot, class rosters will stay the same and students will still have their same teachers; the times when classes and advisor group meets will be different.

At the end of the pilot, we will gather feedback from all the students, all the faculty and staff, and the PGA Middle School class reps. After reviewing this feedback, the schedule committee and the Middle School department heads will make a recommendation to me and Head of School Bernie Noe; he and I will make a final decision about the schedule that will go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year. It is important to state that this decision has not yet been made. We are hopeful that the new schedule will better serve our students and our school, but we won't know until we try!

Here is a link to the schedule we will pilot. Features of the new schedule include:

  • 45-minute lunches every day.
  • 50-minute classes (current schedule classes are 40 or 45 minutes).
  • "Advisory/Community Time" every day. This will include advisory (at least 60 minutes per week), community meeting, time for speakers, performances, grade-level meetings and other student activities).
  • A three-day rotation rather than a Monday-Friday orientation. We will run an A day, then a B day, followed by a C day, then back to an A day, regardless of day of the week. A link to the calendar of ABC days during the pilot is here.

Students will be told about this new schedule and the upcoming pilot on Wednesday, Jan. 9 in advisory, followed by a community meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10. Students will receive their pilot schedules on Friday, Jan. 18, and the pilot will begin the next week, on Wednesday, Jan. 23 (school is closed that Monday and Tuesday). During the pilot, we will communicate clearly, through every possible means, what "day" it is (A, B, or C). Tutors and music teachers have been informed about the pilot and are reworking their schedules so that these commitments can continue with as little disruption as possible.

We want to be sure that parents and guardians have their questions about the pilot and test schedule answered. Do not hesitate to email me directly with your thoughts or questions. There will also be two open Q&A sessions for parents and guardians: Tuesday, Jan. 15 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 28 from 9-10 a.m. Both take place in the Middle School Dining Room.

This is a big event in the life of the school! Thanks for your questions and your feedback!

Elaine Christensen '82 is Middle School director and Lakeside's director of professional development. Reach her at MSdirector@lakesideschool.org or 206-440-2772.