For Whom The Bell Tolls: The Reason Behind The High School of American Studies’ Fickle Bell Schedule
Isaiah Rosenn, Grade 11, Staff Writer
The High School of American Studies’ administration has changed the bell schedule four times in the last four years. After negotiating with faculty and ensuring the new schedule meets city and state requirements, the changes are implemented in order to help enhance the student experience in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Education sets a range for school-day hours. With this range, the school administration is able to choose what personal bell schedule would be optimal for their students and staff. For many years, HSAS had maintained a bell schedule that ended at 2:48 PM. However, new HSAS students do not know that Fridays used to be shorter.
Before 2020, the Friday school day ended at 1:52 PM. The schedule provided a relief for students at the end of an intense week. “It was more of a reward,” said Alexandra Gonzalez (‘23). Not only did students get to go home earlier, the school was able to reach out to parents and provide support to kids who needed it.
However, when the pandemic hit our city, hours had to shift in order to adjust to the multiple different schooling styles. Online school classes started at 8:00 AM and ended at 3:50 PM, and rotated between live and asynchronous classes.
Once in-person school returned, the staff chose a schedule that ended at 2:48 PM every day. However, as the school year went on, it was clear that the new schedule was not conducive to the circumstances. Since there was no shortened Friday schedule, additional support was not as accessible. “What this created was no built-in time for parental outreach and for students to come, that wouldn’t conflict with school buses and teachers' willingness to stay after school,” said HSAS Program Chair and Mathematics teacher, Ms. Taylor. She elaborated that it was difficult, “especially for students having come off of lockdown.”
This year, the HSAS faculty decided to create a solution that would address the imbalance between time for helping students, and the number of students that needed help.
The new schedule contains 51 minute classes, rather than 55 minutes in previous years, starts at 8:05 AM, and ends at 2:20 PM with three minutes in between each class. Additionally, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from the school day’s end to 3:10 PM, teachers host Small Group Instruction and office hours.
Every teacher has their own assigned days and rooms for optional office hours. In those rooms they meet with students, share guidance, and answer questions. Every teacher also has their own SGI day, in which selected students are mandated to attend. On this day teachers meet with a small student group and expand upon their class lesson.
The new system provides extra help for students and allows teachers to work with pupils one-on-one and in small groups to advance their skills. Furthermore, the help is contained within the school-day, and lets teachers and students alike go home at a reasonable hour.
But, the new bell schedule is not a perfect system. “It’s a work in progress for sure,” said HSAS History teacher, Mr. Evans. “If you need to speak to a student privately it's a little bit awkward with all the other students around,” he added. It has also proved difficult for various clubs and teams who have to wait for a portion of their participants to finish SGI to begin practice, and for students who rely on bus companies for transportation to and from school that are still scheduled to leave school at 3:05. Lena DiBiasio(‘23) , said, “I take the Citi Bus and … I have to wait a half hour and do nothing.”
SGI and Office Hours may cause inconveniences, but the overall schedule was built to provide help for the student body and give the majority of students a shorter day. Although the schedule has changed throughout the last couple of years, it changed with the intention to help the students. Whether the current bell schedule stays depends on its ability to provide the necessary support for students.