Schedule Changes Disscussed By Faculty and Student Council

Since Head of School Barbara Landis Chase unveiled proposals to extend the academic calendar two weeks ago, students and some faculty members have discussed the changes and their implications for the academic program.         Some of the extra days would be used for classes, but most would serve as “spacer days,” used for meetings, workshops, and long weekends in an effort to ease the pace of life for students. Alongside the change in the calendar will come proposed changes to the diploma requirements and support networks.  Although faculty members returned to campus in September anticipating a brief dialogue and then a vote, the complexity of this issue has made it clear that more discussion is necessary. A number of All-School Meeting dates have been set aside for faculty meetings about the proposals.  Under either of the two plans set forth over the summer by a task force team headed by Dean of Studies Margarita Curtis, the school year would be lengthened by ten days in comparison to this year, increasing the total number of school days to 150. Mrs. Chase said, “This was an administrative decision. There had been a lot of discussion about it for a long time, and I felt that it was something we needed to do…One hundred and fifty [days] is, in my view, really the minimum based on what we are trying to teach and deliver.”  The two proposals entail one-week reductions in both summer and winter vacations. In the new calendar, fall term would end before Thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving vacation would also be restored to its previous length of ten days, giving teachers enough time to grade final exams. The first of the two proposed calendars, known as the Spacer Day Calendar Model, sets aside two days of each term for co-curricular and faculty development activities. One of these six days would be the current Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, while another in the spring term would be a Senior Exhibition Day, allowing seniors to exhibit their work and accomplishments to the community.   On all these days, a period from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. would be set aside for additional academic support, such as meetings with teachers or department and division meetings.  The rest of the day on the remaining four spacer days would be used for the “Non Sibi Program,” which would combine and surpass existing co-curricular activities, such as FCD week, AIDS awareness seminars, date rape prevention workshops, and ninth-grade dorm presentations. The entire faculty would be involved in this program, either in an administrative or a teaching capacity. The second of the two plans proposes a three-week fourth term in December between Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. According to the Dean of Studies Office, the December Term Model would “provide what trimesters alone cannot: characteristically rigorous academic courses…that would permit student immersion in a subject, intensive off-campus service learning, and connections among previously discrete disciplines.”  A “major” course, meeting six days a week for over two hours, would offer much more class time than a five-hour course does in a regular 10-week term.  In addition to the major course, students would select a “minor” course, which would meet for one-hour classes four times per week. During the December term, students would also be required to participate in an afternoon activity, such as a sport, Model UN, community service, theatre, student publications, or music. Exhibitions, such as lectures, concerts, and interscholastic games, would take place after dinner. While most Juniors and Lowers would be on campus attending classes and focusing on academic skills, Uppers and Seniors would be encouraged to study off-campus or remain at Andover for intensive interdisciplinary learning. This proposal is much more difficult to enact than the first. It is both time-consuming and expensive to develop courses and programs both on- and off-campus.  The December Term Model also includes the Non Sibi Program, which would occur every third Wednesday in replace of All-School Meeting. College Counseling and cluster meetings would be moved to the department meeting period on Thursday mornings.       One member of student council, Eddie Kang ‘07 has proposed his own proposal for the schedule on behalf of the Student Council.  Kang said, “Since I live in California and sometimes go back to Korea for breaks, it was a very personal issue for me.  Since PA is such a geographically diverse boarding school, I think they should be more considerate to students who live far away.” Kang noted that between Thanksgiving and winter breaks, there are only eight academic days, four of which are taken up by exams.  Kang proposes to combine Thanksgiving and winter break into one six-week vacation.  To make up the days lost and increase the school year to 150 days, school would start earlier at the end of August and commencement would take place during the second week of June.  Kang researched the traveling costs for students from far away places like Colorado, California, and Korea. He calculated that a student who wanted to visit family in California would spend a total of $1956.80 on travel for both breaks and would only spend 76 percent of his total vacation time relaxing.  Kang believes it would be both more financially efficient and more relaxing to consolidate the two vacations.  The Student Council has not yet voted on the proposal, but it will be presented to the faculty sometime in late October or early November. West Quad South Senior Representative Daniel Bacon ’06 said, “Eddie [Kang] presented a very strong proposal, but you can’t really start before Labor Day….That just wouldn’t fly.” Student Council Member Yoni Gruskin ’07 said, “We hope that they’re not intent on looking only at one or two of their own proposals. The students understand the importance of this upcoming decision and would like their input presented as well.”