Despite Maas, Daily Schedule To Remain

Students erupted into cheers last week when All-School Meeting speaker Dr. James Maas said that schools should not begin classes before 9 a.m. But the proposal from Maas, a professor at Cornell University, may not become an immediate reality at Andover. Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, said, “We’re constrained by other decisions that we have made about our schedule.” Paul Cernota, Scheduling Officer, said, “When looking at the whole day, we just have not come up with a way to work it through that doesn’t cause serious issues in some other aspect of campus life.” These other aspects include athletics, meal times and the music schedule on campus. Cernota said that athletics are a concern because moving practices later in the day would force teams to practice after dark toward the end of Fall Term. “If Daylight Savings Time did not begin during fall sports, this would not be such a big issue,” said Cernota. Another issue is how the change might affect dinner times. Cernota said, “If sports ended an hour later, many students would not be able to get to dinner until after 6 p.m. Fitting dinner and music rehearsals in before 8 p.m. study hours would be very difficult.” After hearing Maas’s lecture, Deerfield adopted a schedule that begins classes at 8:30 a.m., he said. Murphy said, “Both Deerfield and Andover have taken a half hour out of their schedule. The difference lies between the way that two schools have shrunken their schedule.” While Deerfield cut 30 minutes before classes, Phillips Academy took 30 minutes out of the schedule to allow for Conference period. Phillips Academy first created Conference period in the 1980s by cutting five minutes from each class, according to Murphy. “We love our Conference period,” Murphy continued. “I would say that we’re never going to get rid of Conference.” John Rogers, Dean of Studies, said that the faculty did consider proposals saying that later start times for classes are preferable, but rejected certain models for scheduling. “One idea that faculty considered and decided was not a good compromise, was eliminating Conference and Advising periods in order to start classes later,” said Rogers. To compensate for their schedule shift, Deerfield administrators also moved final sign-in earlier, to 9:30 p.m. Deerfield integrated its new system into its schedule after a successful trial run for a single term. Faculty approval ratings for the new schedule grew from a slim majority to over 90 percent. Deerfield’s Head of School Margarita Curtis, Andover’s former Dean of Studies, wrote in an email to The Phillipian. “Mr. [Peter] Warsaw, our Academic Dean, and Mr. [Toby] Emerson, our Dean of Students, worked closely together last year to launch our Winter term experiment.” She continued, “It was based on the success of that three-month period that we decided to implement the new schedule for the whole year.” Dr. Richard Keller, School Physician, supports later start times. He said, “Even 8:30 [a.m.] would be a positive change.” Keller has spoken with Deerfield’s Director of Health Services, Dr. Thomas Hagamen, about the effects of a later start time on students’ health. Keller said, “Last Winter term, student health at Deerfield improved by almost every measure. Visits went down, as well as overnights and sickness in general.” He added, “Also, from a mental perspective, both students and faculty were less stressed.” Despite student enthusiasm for later class start times, the administration has not seen any student initiative to make a proposal. Cernota said, “Some [student] interest occurs periodically, but it’s not a topic which seems to hold attention for very long.” Keller added, “I don’t think that anyone is actively trying to make changes right now. It’s not on the table for immediate consideration.” However, Keller does not mean to discourage action. He said, “It’s been examined in many meetings from many angles. I think that there are imaginative ways that you can do it.” Andover’s current schedule was composed in the mid-90s by a composition of faculty called the Schedule and Calendar Committee. The committee determined to have “classes no shorter than 45 minutes and passing time no less than 10 minutes.” The committee also chose to end all academic commitments in time for both athletics and community service. In 2003, the Schedule and Calendar Committee, in conjunction with the Pace of Life Committee, decided by majority vote to retain its current schedule. Murphy said students should not only consider Maas’ suggestion for later class time, but also his recommendations for sleep. “We hope that students and faculty listen to Professor Maas on the value of sleep. Especially here, sleep feels like a waste of time. His message is that it’s not a waste of time,” said Murphy.