Protect “Protected” Time

Each Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, students gather between 6:20 p.m. and 7:50 p.m. for their music commitments. According to The Blue Book, students commit to at least two evening rehearsals per week to participate in Academy performance ensembles, with most groups meeting Tuesday and Thursday from 6:20 to 7:50 p.m. The Blue Book also promises that “this time is protected for students participating in musical ensembles; rehearsals take priority over any other scheduled event (extracurricular, co-curricular, or academic) on campus.” But is the time Andover sets aside for music––commonly termed “protected time”––really protected?

Students often face a choice between pursuing music at Andover and participating in their other commitments. Despite their Blue Book status, music programs at Andover are often walked over when it comes to scheduling. For instance, while Andover’s weekly schedule lists set hours for “Athletics and Community Engagement,” music’s protected time does not appear on the tally. This discrepancy leaves this so-called “protected” period up for interpretation, especially for clubs and groups looking to organize meetings during the week.

With the rigor of Andover’s workload, time is already scant for club meetings, group classwork, and other extra or cocurricular activities to meet during the week. Working against the clock and an already wrung-out schedule, many clubs and activities schedule meetings during music protected time. For those participating in Academy ensembles who are also active club members, this scheduling conflict presents a dilemma—attend clubs at the expense of their ensemble membership, or skimp on club participation and their extracurricular passions. This dilemma especially affects underclassmen, who have been encouraged to “try everything out,” and may limit the expansion and diversity of students’ interests across all grade levels.

This thin balance only becomes progressively more unwieldy throughout students’ Andover careers.
As commitments ramp up and students have more weekly obligations, upperclassmen musicians, who have been trying to organize their schedules since freshman year, must continuously reevaluate their schedules to prioritize music against a school scheduling culture that does not prioritize their music commitments. These struggles Andover musicians face reflect a larger chaos that permeates Andover’s schedule.

On the academic front, Andover’s current schedule is riddled with frays that reveal a system which undermines student wellness. Weeks begin with a crammed Monday schedule with homework due for every class; yet, the 40 minute allotted time for classes on Monday is often too short to thoroughly delve into class topics. A day designed to balance out the schedule is often more disruptive than the “fairness” it strives to achieve. Furthermore, our 8:30 a.m. start time, combined with courseloads and adolescent sleep cycles means that students are often not at their best in the morning, disadvantaging first and third period classes.

The poor timing of the current schedule impedes students’ health and wellness throughout the week. For classes, a mere 65 minutes is allotted for conference on Monday and Wednesday. For students taking five courses, that’s an average of 13 minutes per class, and even less for those taking six courses. While students might not meet with every class using the allotted conference period, meeting with just two teachers can be difficult after accounting for commute time and other students’ needing to meet with the same teacher. Lunch is even more contentious, with students in sixth lunch and 3:15 p.m. athletics having less than 30 minutes to eat, and with sports within the next hour. Wednesday lunch, too, is difficult, chaotic, and inefficient. The 1:00 p.m. rush prevents students with early afternoon games and commitments from grabbing a quick but fulfilling lunch.

The challenge then becomes remediating the issue; what does a balanced Andover schedule look like? How can students meet baseline wellness needs (eight hours of sleep, adequate time for schoolwork, three fulfilling meals a day)––needs that, at Andover, are often an impossible ideal––but still pursue their passions? A microcosm of larger knots in Andover’s scheduling––the fragility of protected time reflects the student body’s wider inability to engage in their interests when our schedules often don’t value them as we do. As one stroke in a broader effort to ensure student wellness and limit schedule confusion, Andover should recognise music protected time in its weekly schedule and more strictly enforce its status as “protected.”