Faculty Vote To Keep Current Daily Schedule

The daily schedule will stay as is after a faculty vote this week. Ninety-three faculty members, or 61 percent of the 152 faculty members submitting ballots, voted to continue with the current schedule, and 47 faculty voted to create a new schedule. Twelve faculty abstained. The vote, which concluded Wednesday, followed a discussion on the daily schedule at Monday night’s faculty meeting. The current daily schedule was adopted in the fall of 2003 as a three-year trial, but after the finalization of the Strategic Plan in 2004, the testing period was extended, according to Peter Merrill, Instructor in Russian and Chair of the Department of World Languages. According to Suzanne Buckwalter, Chair of the Math Department, many faculty members like the current schedule because of its “set routine,” including three short periods and an extended period weekly for all classes. She said, “I like the current schedule because with everything in place it is a good compromise.” However, both Merrill and Buckwalter count themselves among many faculty members who think that class days should start later than 8 a.m. “Research shows that teens need more sleep. If the vote passes, we may look for way to have a later start to the day,” Buckwalter said. But both said that creating a new schedule is a lengthy process. Merrill said, “It takes a couple of years to create a new schedule. It involves researching other schools and taking into account our own need…it is a big task to encompass all these needs.” The old schedule was not as structured as the current schedule. All-School Meeting did not have a set period; instead, it would be placed in one period’s block at random. Also, extended periods did not only meet on Wednesdays and Thursdays but also met throughout the week. Merrill said that Deerfield Academy will be using an experimental schedule after voting to institute it for their winter term, which begins November 26. Former Andover Instructor in Music Peter Warsaw, now Academic Dean at Deerfield, was on the committee of faculty who pushed for this schedule change at Deerfield. According to Warsaw, Deerfield’s new plan focuses on having all students asleep by midnight. Warsaw said that teachers and coaches have been asked to reduce their class time, homework time and sports time by 10 percent. Deerfield, a school that currently has 50-minute classes, will now have 45-minute classes. Teachers are also being asked to cut down homework time from 50 minutes to 45 minutes per class, and sports practices are being shortened from 90 minutes to 80 minutes. In addition to changes in academic and sports timing, sign-in, lights out and munch times have been moved up 30 minutes. Deerfield’s new class day will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. On Wednesday, classes end at 12:45 p.m. and on Thursday at 3:25 p.m. Sign-in will be at 9:30 p.m. followed by a 10:00 p.m. daily munch for dorms, said Warsaw. Juniors will have lights out at 10:30 p.m. This will allocate an extra hour of sleep for the newcomers, as classes start 30 minutes later and lights out is 30 minutes earlier compared to the old schedule. “It doesn’t seem like a lot [of time], but all the time eventually adds up,” said Warsaw. Warsaw said that students, faculty and coaches are going to have to buy into the change in order for it to be effective. “We hope that even though everyone had to give up something they will still accept it,” he said. Like Buckwalter and Merrill, Warsaw believes students need more sleep. Warsaw said, “There is a relentless pace of life during the day and long homework assignments at night. By the end of the term, students are exhausted and can’t learn, perform or memorize well. Science and research tells us that adolescents need eight to nine hours of sleep per night.” The schedule will not be a long-term solution but rather “a short-term way to gather data and aid in finding a solution,” said Warsaw. Warsaw believes that the culture of boarding schools is in part to blame. “We want to change the culture from being proud of saying, ‘I got three hours of sleep last night,’ to being proud of saying, ‘I got nine hours of sleep last night,’” he said.