Times are Changing

New daily schedule moves early release back and activity period forward in order to improve learning.

The bell rings. It’s 12:30 p.m. and Seniors flood out of the school doors. Early release beckons them home, to work or to lunch with friends. Next year, 1:40 p.m. will be the new 12:30 p.m. as a new daily schedule changes the Upper School routine.

Administration adopted the new schedule, set to take effect with the 2018-19 school year, with the goal of improving learning and increasing Senior influence on the Upper School as a whole. The current schedule has essentially four and a half hours of learning, one long hour and 20-minute break, and then another hour and a half of learning. The new schedule allows for intentional breaks between each class.

Studies have shown that this not only improves learning, but also allows students to have time to process new information.

Upper School Principal Mrs. Wendy Morris and other administrators are excited for the new schedule to begin. She said, “We believe that the new schedule will benefit the students by improving the learning environment as a whole.”

The new plan has three major benefits:

  1. It will increase participation in activity period programs.
  2. It will allow Seniors to positively influence the culture.
  3. It will allow greater brain breaks between each class.

Though there are many positive aspects of this schedule change, the Junior class had reservations. Many have spent all of high school looking forward to a 12:30 p.m. early release time. They were also excited about the possibility of having off-campus lunches and being able to start work shifts at an earlier time to maximize their day. Junior Miranda Reeves said, “I was going to intern at a vet, but now I can’t start until 3 p.m. instead of 1 p.m., so it throws off my plans.”

Junior Ashton Lott said, “I worked at Ella Bleu Sophomore year and decided it was too hard to balance Junior year and working most days. I promised my boss I would come back this summer and work Senior year, but now I can’t because I would miss the shift she needed me for.”

Change can be difficult, but Mrs. Morris stressed the many benefits of the new schedule. She said, “Having activity period separated from lunch makes this time more intentional. The purpose of activity period is for students to have the opportunity to attend tutoring and club meetings, and for some to be involved in extra courses such as FPS and LSP.”

This schedule change will increase the number of students on campus and thus increase the proportion participating in clubs and investing time in extra courses. Additionally, the new positioning of activity period will allow students to receive tutoring earlier in the day. That way, they can get work done before they go home, making the schedule more proactive.

“The new schedule allows for Seniors to be present during the activity period while also having their early release. It is important that the Seniors have a presence on campus in a leadership role while at the same time we want to offer them the Senior privilege of early release. This schedule allows for both to take place,” said Mrs. Morris.

The compromise will still allow Seniors to have the early release privilege, while also preventing the culture shift that happened when those Seniors, the leaders of the school, were absent during half of the school day.

Calculus teacher Mrs. Lori Nappier, who was at the school for years, left for a time and just returned this fall. She has a special perspective on the culture here and strongly supports the change.

Mrs. Nappier said, “I think one of the greatest benefits that will come from the new schedule is how it will gradually change the culture into one of, ‘this is MY school.’ As Seniors invest more in the school, they will begin to ‘own’ it.  PCA will become a part of who they are, and as they give back, they will become a part of PCA. Negative comments directed toward PCA will become personal. When I see bitterness in someone’s eyes and hear a derogatory comment like ‘PCA is so …’ what I hear is ‘Mrs. Nappier is so . . .’  Why? Because this is MY school. I am investing myself here; my time, my energy, my heart. You attack PCA, you are attacking me.”

Mrs. Nappier continued, “I know it won’t happen overnight, but I KNOW the more time the Seniors spend here, the more they will invest in the life of PCA, invest their time, their energy, their heart.  They will take ownership of the school, and it will be contagious to the underclassmen . . . and YES, it will change the culture of this school.”

This new schedule change may be just the thing the school needs to better foster a positive, Jesus-centered mindset.

Administration also made this new schedule change to help students learn in a more conducive environment and provide students more breaks throughout the day.

University of Illinois Psychology professor Dr. Alejandro Lleras studied the impact of taking breaks on student performance. “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness,” Dr. Lleras said.

“From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task,” said Dr. Lleras.

Mrs. Morris said, “The schedule provides brain breaks between 90-minute block classes. After each class, there is a 10-minute or more break before the next class.  First period, activity period, second period, lunch, third period, 10-minute break, fourth period.”

Though Juniors looked forward to the extra hour off of school, the potential change of culture that could occur would be worth it. The learning processes and relationships between Seniors and younger classmates should prove more important than the negatives of an extra hour in the school day.