New schedule headlines changes announced at Strategic Summit meeting

Faculty members gathered on campus on Monday morning for an update on progress made by the five Strategic Summit subcommittees.  The Graduation Requirements, Grade Level Guides, and Schedule and Calendar committees all presented their proposed changes, while the Grading Communication and Faculty Formation committees gave brief updates on their progress.

Schedule for the 2022-23 academic year.

First, the Graduation Requirements committee announced its planned changes, which, as the name suggests, has focused its efforts on reexamining St. Louis U. High’s baseline requirements for graduation. All academic departments were given a chance in past months to give input and make proposals of their own, all of which helped factor into the committee’s final proposal to the administration.

“These changes are largely being implemented for the Class of 2026, the incoming freshman class that was recently accepted, though some will take place earlier,” said Assistant Principal for Academics Kevin Foy. “Obviously, for juniors and seniors, we can’t really change the rules in the middle of the game, so it doesn’t have much to do with the upperclassmen. It should change a little bit of how the freshmen and sophomores do things, though.” 

The committee whose decision carried the most immediate impact for current students, however, was undoubtedly the Scheduling committee.  Due to complications brought on by the pandemic, SLUH departed from its traditional seven period per day schedule at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year in favor of a rotating block schedule. Though it underwent some slight changes, that schedule very closely resembles that which students experience now, with A and B days providing an alternating set of classes each day.  

The rotating block schedule received mixed reviews from students and teachers alike, with some praising the added homework flexibility, and others denouncing the 80-minute class duration and different bell schedules.

In addition to regular meetings held by members of the Scheduling committee, students were given a chance for their voices to be heard in various information sessions that took place in December. After piecing together student and faculty feedback, the committee settled on an innovative new schedule known as a “cascading schedule,” which is  somewhat of a hybrid of the current schedule and the previous 7-classes-a-day schedule.

“Our former schedule, when we had seven periods a day, people said it was pretty frantic,” said Toussaint. “They felt really stressed out, so we wanted to really balance student wellness.”.

The new schedule will feature five 60-minute classes each day, with each class period designated by a different letter, A through G.  Seven classes will still be available for students to take, meaning that the schedule will cascade over to the next day, picking up where it left off.  For example, if you have A, B, C, D, and E classes on a Monday, you would have F and G along with A, B, and C on Tuesday, a pattern that will repeat itself throughout the school year.

“The thing that's great (about the new schedule)  is that the bell schedules are the exact same every day,” said Scheduling Committee Chair Kate Toussaint. “So every day, classes will start at 8:25. Every day, second period will start at 9:35. Every day at 10:35, students will have free time.” 

An additional positive that this schedule will bring is that teachers and students will have more varied class meeting times. Instead of constantly having the same class every morning throughout an entire quarter, the improved schedule would rotate the class’s time of day.

“The new schedule just helps me equalize classes,” said Toussaint. “For example, I'm fresher in the morning, so it's not fair for one of my classes to get me when I'm freshest all the time. So, I think that this balance is a really healthy thing for teachers and students.”

Classes will also be shorter in duration at 60 minutes for each period, shorter than the lengthy 80 minutes experienced in the current schedule.  

One notable component of the current SLUH schedule that is missing from the revised plan is homeroom, which has been a fixture of the student experience for decades. Instead of meeting in homeroom to start off the day, students will instead report to their first period class, where they will listen to announcements and prayer before commencing with class business. This new policy will closely resemble that of last year’s schedule, and is a change welcomed by many students.

“Freshman year, I really didn’t mind that there was no homeroom. I get why they brought it back, but I think it’s just a lot of wasted time.  It makes a lot more sense to go into a class right after announcements than to just sit on my iPad doing nothing for a few minutes,” said sophomore Leo Fitzmaurice.

Another adjustment is the new rotation of Activity Period and Studium. Instead of the usual every other day sequence, AP will strictly be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while studium will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Both AP and studium will take place in 50 minute increments regardless of the day.

The revised schedule will also have ramifications in terms of when students eat lunch, as junior/senior lunch will be moved to occur first, directly after studium or AP. This change took place in the midst of the designing process, when committee members realized that placing freshman/sophomore lunch in the first time slot, as has traditionally been the case, would mean that underclassmen would have three consecutive classes in the afternoon.

“So, historically at SLUH, freshmen and sophomores eat first, and juniors and seniors eat later,” said Toussaint. “Well, just looking through the schedule, we thought ‘Okay, class, class, break (for lunch and AP/studium), class, class, class,’ and, three classes can be kind of a lot for freshmen and sophomores to sit through, so we thought that juniors and seniors would be better equipped to handle that.”

Many upperclassmen expressed gratitude towards the change, as late lunch times for juniors and seniors have been a much-maligned aspect of the current schedule.

“Lunch is just too late,” said junior Brendan Jones. “We eat at 1:20 on A Days, and I often find myself eating some of my lunch in Studium to try and sustain myself. Having three afternoon classes in a row won’t be fun, but I think an earlier lunch time is more important.”

Additionally, a Program Period is being added to the schedule; mandatory meetings and things like Class Masses and presentations will be scheduled here, and more opportunities will be added. For example, juniors could receive more advice on college counseling or seniors could have dedicated time for their Grande Projects. 

“A negative thing that we heard in our listening sessions was that Studium, while great, wasn’t totally used by everybody in the right way. So, we wanted to make sure that if there is programming time, it is used for programming,” said Toussaint.

“The programming period will feel more like the Black History Month presentation, which currently takes place during Studium,” said Foy. “Next year, it’ll have its own dedicated slot where a class won’t meet and instead, these programming periods will happen.”

The changes announced by the Grade Level Guidse committee—whose goal is to provide an advisory system to students—largely coincided with those announced by the scheduling committee. The Grade Level Guides committee plans to use the programming periods allotted in the new schedule to carry out many of its objectives, which cover a broad range of topics all united under the same goal of ensuring each student has access to the quintessential “Jr. Bill” experience.

    “What grade level guides are really producing is an advisement system,” said Foy. “Where you can imagine programming about drinking and driving, just to pull that out, it doesn’t really fit into classes well at any place. But clearly, it’s an important formational element of how we do things here.  … So there are two slots per week where you will be doing SLU High stuff that is part of that formational experience, valuable things that we want our graduates to experience before they finish.”

Although the schedule change had yet to be formally announced to the student body, rumors of the schedule change spread rapidly throughout the school community on Monday due in large part to a leaked photo of one proposed schedule graphic. Student opinions on the shift have been relatively mixed, with some students eager to take on shorter class lengths, and others pessimistic about the changes.

“I think classes are just too long right now, just because I lose focus sometimes,” said freshman Patrick Jones. “With 60 minute classes, it should be easier to stay engaged for the whole time.”

Said junior Lucas Rammacher, “I don’t really think that the changes were that necessary. I’m happy with what we had last year and what we have this year, I just don’t see why we have to switch it all up.”

For any students with further questions related to the new schedule, the Scheduling Committee is hosting a Q&A session today during studium in the Commons. There will be a short presentation followed by an opportunity to ask questions, and all are invited to attend.

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