Two Views: Pandemic Bell Schedule

January 18, 2021

When Newport-Mesa secondary schools transitioned from full virtual learning to a hybrid model back in November, the bell schedule changed too, extending classes from 45 minutes to 80. Upon return from winter break, however, all students returned to distance learning in response to the spike in COVID cases across southern California.

This adjustment was meant to last for only the first three weeks in January, but with local hospitals still full, it may be longer before students return to campus.

In the meantime, students continue to debate the merits of the two schedules debuted this year, especially the pros and cons of 45-minute versus 80-minute classes. Today, Copy Chief Gauri Patwardhan and Culture Editor Bryce Rennick take two views on the bell schedule debate.

Gauri Patwardhan: Keep Our Longer Classes

In the face of increasing coronavirus cases in Orange County, the prospect of continuing distance learning past the initial three-week period for NMUSD schools is gaining strength. However, these talks have sparked a debate among NHHS students, not on whether to continue distance learning but on the schedule our school should follow.

The debate around school is whether we should switch back to the online learning schedule used for first half of last semester, dividing NHHS students, with many voices heard from both sides, each trying to influence the school’s decision in this regard.

The school ultimately decided to keep the hybrid schedule for these weeks of distance learning in January, arguing that changing it would disturb the rhythm established in the latter half of last semester if the schedule changed again.

Aside from these logistical reasons, keeping the current schedule also presents a better choice because of its structure. 

Last semester’s 45-minute classes were chaotic and severely restricted in-class learning. Students barely got anything done during class time, forcing teachers to pile on homework every day. Worse yet, many classes started lagging. 

As an example, in AP Chemistry, after reviewing homework and answering any questions, Mr. Constandse, my teacher, only had 20-25 minutes to teach new content. Within the first months of the semester, it was evident that his class was falling behind schedule. Mr. Constandse himself expressed his concern about this, letting students know early this semester that we may not have the time to cover some concepts in class. Students must learn that material themselves.

Switching back to 45-minute classes would only slow the class’s progress, leading to students participating in extensive independent learning as classes simply do not have the time to cover the whole syllabus. 

While this will increase the workload for all students, for those facing AP and IB tests in May, the switch may be catastrophic. They will have a limited amount of time to learn concepts by themselves, while preparing for the tests and juggling their other classes and extracurriculars.

Those with family responsibilities and/or a job may also struggle with balancing their work, extracurriculars and and increased workload from school. For many, the result would be low grades, for some even F’s.

However, with the hybrid schedule, classes are significantly longer, allocating enough time for teachers to teach their students, thereby dropping the burden of independent learning and reducing homework. As a result, many students saw their workloads and stress levels decrease since November 2020; I most certainly did. 

Since the start of the pandemic, we have longed to return to “normal.” While, given the current circumstances, that seems like a distant dream, the hybrid schedule does bring a certain level of normalcy. Its structure has many parallels with our old A/B block day schedule: 80-minute classes with extended student-teacher interaction opportunities, lunch time for chatting with friends or attending club meetings, etc.

All this is not to say the hybrid schedule is without its faults. But what is? The question at hand, thus, is which schedule grants teachers sufficient time to teach, thereby easing the burden on the students and allowing everyone the opportunity to succeed in class. The answer is the hybrid schedule.

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Bryce Rennick: This Schedule Has to Go

When winter break was over and we were told to go back to school, it was announced that we would not be going back in person for the first three weeks. This is an obvious choice; people could have been visiting family, going places, possibly exposing themselves to the virus, so not going back to school would make sense. What didn’t make sense, when this was announced, was that we would be keeping the same hybrid schedule that we had before, even though people weren’t going back to school.

With this hybrid schedule, we are forced to have one hour and twenty-minute classes four days a week, and on Monday we have a traditional schedule where we go through each one of our classes. The previous schedule was like the schedule before the pandemic, with A and B days, but instead of hour and a half classes, we had forty-five minutes.

The forty-five minute classes were easy to process and understand when at home. For most people, working and learning from home is rather difficult because of a few reasons. The first reason is that you are possibly surrounded by items and objects that you enjoy and, thus, will distract you. This is the case for me. Before I had to start packing for college, my room was chock-full of action figures, posters, comics and all sorts of other toys, like most teenager’s rooms. It became increasingly difficult to not look at my Gambit and Rogue action figures, or my Firefly collectibles, or my Weird Science poster while in class. They distracted me and caused me to feel more relaxed and not wish to have school in my own room. 

The second reason is simply that you are home, in an environment you would not associate with working. Before the pandemic, I looked at getting home as a reward. It was like a ritual of mine, getting home after a long day or what would feel like failure after failure. I was able to calm myself down and do what I wanted to do, not to be controlled by anyone else and told what assignments were due. Now, that idea of “getting home” is thrown completely out of the window, and “home” is now the workplace. Both of those places and their mindsets are now mixed, and the idea is convoluted.

Because of this, shorter classes made life easier. Most importantly, they gave students and teachers the time to themselves that everyone needs.

The hour and twenty-minute schedule does not do that.

Instead, they do exactly what I was talking about before, where they keep you in longer so you will be most distracted and that idea of “home” and “workplace” becomes even more tangled than before. 

The most important point that has yet to be made is the other responsibilities that people have within their lives, and how more class takes away from that. For me, I’m in two production classes, TarTV and the Beacon. Although both classes are part of the school, I am a leader in both classes, causing me to have more responsibilities. On top of that, I have other responsibilities at home that I have to take care of, other hobbies that I would like to spend time doing and other activities that I want to do or need to do. I’m hardly the only one who deals with this; there are plenty of other students who have greater responsibilities than I do, who have people who depend on them to help provide food or money for the family, or take care of a younger sibling, or take care of the house in general.

The longer schedule seems to present more problems than solutions. People have lives, even during a pandemic, when “having a life” is put on hold for the safety of others. Even if it may seem like we have more time now, that is not the case for everyone. Knowing this can help people understand some other people’s situations, and cause them to be more respectful of those situations as well.

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