Chase Announces Decision to Keep Saturday Classes

Responding to discussions with the Pace of Life and Faculty Advisory Committees, Head of School Barbara Landis Chase notified the Phillips Academy community via an e-mail on Tuesday that she plans to keep the current policy on the controversial topic of Saturday classes “constant for the foreseeable future.” In her announcement, Mrs. Chase stated that the elimination of six-day weeks would “move [Andover] closer to the model of a five-day boarding school and away from [its] identity as a seven-day-a-week program for families from across the country and around the world.” Furthermore, Mrs. Chase claimed, “If we [gave] up Saturday classes altogether now, it would be nearly impossible to reinstate them in the future.” Mrs. Chase’s decision to maintain Saturday classes tentatively halts all formal discussion about this widely debated issue. Those who oppose Saturday classes have argued that they create an unnecessary inconvenience for day students whose parents are forced to transport them to school on a weekend day. Furthermore, they assert that weekend classes do not allow students to go home until Saturday evening, and that they add stress to the already hectic weekday schedule. According to a Pace of Life survey taken last year, the large majority of the student body opposes Saturday classes. Addressing these concerns in her e-mail message, Mrs. Chase noted that although she has rejected the elimination of Saturday classes, she “listened to the voices that made the point that Saturdays without classes are seen as being easier on family life” and consequently decided not to increase the number of Saturday classes. As Mrs. Chase’s made her decision in conjunction with Chair of the Pace of Life Committee Max Alovisetti, Mr. Alovisetti claimed that having classes on six Saturdays throughout the year has a “negligible impact” on the Academy’s pace of life and that Saturday classes “great symbolic weight.” Mrs. Chase confirmed this statement in her e-mail by noting that this symbolism lies in upholding the Academy’s reputation as a seven-days-a-week residential community. Mr. Alovisetti explained Mrs. Chase’s decision, noting, “Mrs. Chase’s fear, as I understand it, is that eliminating these classes may set us on a path of becoming or being seen as a five-day-a-week boarding school. The potential unintended consequences of eliminating these classes far outweigh any benefits.” According to Mr. Alovisetti, there will probably be three classes on Saturday, a change from the current two-period schedule. Further recent discussions within the Pace of Life Committee have involved attempts to determine the necessity or appropriateness of holding required activities such as music rehearsals and club meetings on Saturday. Mr. Alovisetti explained that should such activities meet on Saturday, “[Saturday] classes [would] eventually be eliminated.” Despite the fact that the new schedule does not include an All-School Meeting that replaces a Wednesday class, Mr. Alovisetti said that the faculty would need to discuss how to orient the schedule so that free periods could be included to compensate for the Saturday classes. Mr. Alovisetti explained that possibilities could include “scheduling [the free periods] for the preceding or following week…[or having] them over three days.” However, Mrs. Chase remained adamant in her e-mail that the class periods which were moved to Saturday should be kept free of any scheduled meetings. She noted, “In this way, [Andover] will spread out some of the commitments over a longer period of time, and students will have fewer preparations per night during six-day weeks.” According to Mrs. Chase, her decision to keep Saturday classes was a difficult yet necessary one. Addressing those who oppose Saturday classes, Mrs. Chase explained, “While you may not agree, I hope that you will accept that I have acted in good faith and have done my best to take into consideration the well being of the institution for the sake of all who are shaped by it now and in the future.” Peer schools such as Phillips Exeter Academy include regularly scheduled Saturday classes as a part of their weekly schedule. Unlike Andover’s two-period Saturday schedule, however, Exeter’s Saturday classes last from 8 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. and occur every week. This schedule is consistent with the traditional preparatory school system.