Faculty Consider Flexibility In School Schedule: Possibility of Change to 3-5 Time Slot Discussed

Faculty members have recently discussed options for increasing flexibility in students’ schedules. This subject surfaced in 2004 when the Board of Trustees adopted the Strategic Plan. The Plan called for a revision of all program requirements in acknowledgement of challenges that arise with students’ diversity of talents and passions. Music Department Chair Elizabeth Aureden said, “After school, four things need to happen: sports, community service, theater, and music. With them all competing for the same time periods, no matter what, there are going to be conflicts.” Specifically, one topic of possible revision is the time slot between 3 and 5 p.m., currently occupied by athletics. Led by the Athletics Council, faculty meetings have discussed the current athletic requirement, and the support for a potential change. There are several ideas for more flexible fitness options . The current athletic requirement is 45 minutes of fitness four times a week. Director of Athletics Martha Fenton described one option of exercising for longer periods three times a week. Another option would be to have a strength and conditioning coach available at the fitness center during the day. Students with 6th period off could fulfill their athletic requirement and thereby free up their afternoons to participate in other activities. School President Danny Silk ’07 said, “The hope is that students have other options they can do that don’t necessarily have to be an athletic commitment. So if they’re not really interested in athletics, they’ll be able to do other things.” One possibility to allow this freedom was raised by Math Instructor Fernando Alonso at the Student Council meeting on February 18. Alonso asked for opinions on a possible new schedule in which all major athletics, community service, music ensembles, and theater productions would take place from 3-5 p.m. Students would only be able to choose one activity for that main time slot, but certain music ensembles or smaller theater productions would be offered after 5 p.m. Silk said, “Because the kids on Student Council are involved in multiple activities, a lot of them initially did not have enthusiastic responses…[We were] a little panicky, because we thought the change would restrict us and we would not be able to do everything we wanted.” However, Aureden noted the benefits of a more flexible schedule for people with a primary focus other than athletics. She said, “There wouldn’t be a choice…Just if you want to make a very serious commitment to [theater, music, community service, etc.], then there are the same opportunities that a varsity athlete might have.” Marina Warsaw-Fan ’07 is a cellist in the PA music curriculum, as well as at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. She said, “If one is unsure of his or her path in life, then he or she should definitely try different activities…but the question is, what about those who only have one career goal? Should they be told what they should be doing by a system…when really, the only thing that will ensure success for them is work in that area.” Warsaw-Fan supported the idea of a more relaxed athletic program, suggesting a supervised sign-in system in the fitness center where students could work out during their free periods. Other students hope for more flexibility because they are struggling to manage all the different activities and extracurriculars in which they wish to take part. Last year, Anabel Bacon ’09 participated in Cantata, private music lessons, Band, Orchestra, a youth orchestra in Boston, and the Andover Dance Group. Bacon said, “To be honest, a lot of times the scheduling doesn’t work out at all. I remember last year I had so many conflicts between dance and music that I had to miss many rehearsals for both…Especially with regards to musical [activities], because they are such a huge time commitment. There is always a lot of compromise involved.” Three hours a week are reserved for music, between 6:30 and 7:50 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During this time, Orchestra, Chorus and Band take priority over all other activities. Of other musical groups such as Cantata, Azure and smaller instrumental ensembles, Aureden said, “Everything else happens around the margins of those times, where students have to make a choice…Our ensembles rehearse less than a lot of public schools.” Theatre and Dance Department Chair Bruce Bacon explained that students in Theater 520 have sufficient time to rehearse because it is a course during the day. However, drama labs and the Junior Show are extracurriculars and therefore must be fit around everything else. Mr. Bacon said, “We all schedule around academics and sports. It’s not fine, but doable. Would I like more time? Sure. Do I know where to take it from? No, I don’t.” Thus far, no concrete decisions have been made concerning a schedule change. Mr. Alonso said, “The faculty is in very different places right now. The final end goal is to try to create more balance in all of our lives…but reasonable people can disagree on what is the best way of doing that.”