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.