06202018 Headline:

Master schedule poses problems for students, teachers

Misplaced anxiety over class choices directed at counselor

By Chris Hendrickson

The master schedule impacts everyone in the school. The symptoms of an ineffective master schedule range from students retaking electives and  teachers with over-enrolled classes to many of seniors with empty periods. Additionally, several teacher have multiple Teacher Assistants (TAs), even in the same period.


“I currently have nine TAs. At the beginning of the year I had sixteen TAs,” said humanities teacher Marcie Wombold. “This year has been the worst: I have more students without a place to go than in previous years.”


Within the class that produces this newspaper itself, sixth-period Journalism, is not only fully enrolled with thirty-two students, but the class also has three teacher’s assistants. One of whom only agreed to be in such a position to continue to be a member of the paper-producing staff.


As underclassmen, students are often placed into electives that are normally reserved for upperclassmen due to overfilled sections of freshman electives. Once those students become juniors and seniors, there is no reason for them to take the class again. This creates a vacuum of class enrollment which is one of the key problems with the schedule.


According to Marcie Wombold, this means “we create a larger and larger problem the longer we don’t fix the schedule, which is why I think it has gotten so bad this year.”


The layout of the master schedule has seen little change since the founding of the school. In general, classes have always been laid out so that the electives are in the afternoon, and core classes occupy first through fourth periods. According to Marcie Wombold, for the past five years the master schedule has been the main topic of scrutiny in addressing these problems.


“Putting electives over the course of the day so that we have core classes in the afternoon as well,” said Wombold, “is the easiest and most prevalent request for the change of the master schedule, so that we do not limit electives to the afternoon.”


Unfortunately, the problem cannot be solved as simply as making some classes take place earlier in the day. One of the problems that the designers of the master schedule run into is the uncertainty of how class requests equates to class registration. School counselor Katie Carper is one of the people who contributes to making the schedule.


“Our students aren’t robots,” said Carper. “You want one thing in February and another thing in September–and that’s okay, we want you to be able to take the classes you want.”


Carper tries to assign students to the classes they want, but this is not as easy as it may seem. Carper said her role in the making of the master schedule wasn’t to put together the schedule itself, but rather to poke holes in the one the administrators have come up with.


“Putting kids into the schedule has to be the most challenging part of the job,” said Carper. “If no one ever changed classes, you’re looking at between two and three thousand data points. That leaves a lot of room to make a mistake.”


Trying to get students into the classes they ranked the highest is one of the biggest challenges that Carper faces. Working students into “singleton classes,” that is, classes that are only taught for one period a day, is one of the most difficult parts of the job.


“Sometimes it would be nice to make AP Chem and AP Calc BC at different times of the day, but it just doesn’t work for some teachers,” Carper went on. “Take Mr. Shiroma for example, he teaches Art and regular chemistry in addition to AP Chem, and those classes have certain places were they have to be.”


Katie Carper wanted to make it clear that her first priority, contrary to many students’ misconceptions, is not placing students in the classes they desire.


“My first priority is maintaining the mental health of the student body,” said Carper. “My next is making sure everyone has the credits to graduate, and class schedules is only a small part of that.”


Students should understand that the issue of getting into the classes they want is not the school’s first priority. The school’s priority is getting kids the credit to graduate and following the mission statement of the school, which is “to prepare all students for college, career and citizenship through a personalized, rigorous and relevant learning experience that is facilitated in the context of aviation and aerospace,” which does not mean enrolling each student in every class he or she wants.


Given the small size of the school, there is no single blanket method in repairing the master schedule. In an effort to lessen the problem, the PTSA fought to find scholarships for students to take health online. Already, enough students are taking health online that the school has dropped one class of health in exchange for offering one more section of AP Physics.


Teachers with dual endorsements offer flexibility to the schedule. For example, teachers dual endorsed in Social Studies and English provide the schedule with the opportunity to change the classes they teach in order to benefit the schedule and place more students in the classes they desire.

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