By: Editor-in-Chiefs — Jeffrey Xiang, Sarah Yi, and Tanvi Mittal and School News Editor — Emily Mao
Sharon High School has adopted a new schedule beginning Monday, April 26th which will satisfy the required number of hours set forth by The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
While full in-person will begin April 28th, the new schedule started on Monday. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently notified Sharon Public Schools that it needs to increase the hours of instruction. Prior to this, the high school was planning on continuing with the current schedule. They were also going to retain senior privileges and look into dismissing juniors early as well to limit the number of students eating lunch at school.
However, once DESE notified the school of the need to increase instruction hours, the administration had to try to rework the schedule.
Science Department Coordinator Ms. Emily Burke says that the new schedule will no longer include an afternoon eagle block.
She says the schedule was determined by providing several options and polling the faculty as to what is the most preferable option while keeping in mind what is best for students and for safety. She says fully in-person students will be in the classroom and fully remote students will continue to Zoom into their classes as has been done all year.
Although student input and feedback to the new schedule will not be taken into consideration, Burke says when creating the schedule they “did take into account feedback from student panels and student surveys from earlier in the year when developing the schedule options.”
“Since the teachers had the opportunity to view and discuss the schedule options, I believe the overall feedback is positive although no one had foreseen that we would even be changing our learning model this late in the school year, let alone our schedule,” Burke said.
Regarding lunch, SHS Athletic Director and Vice-Principal Dr. Nick Schlierf says that using data from school surveys, changes have been made to accommodate normal grade-level lunches. “We have 210 socially distanced spaces for mask-free lunch consumption,” said Schlierf.
“We increased our cafeteria foyer seating to 70 (up from 35). We have created many additional 6-ft spaces utilizing a new large tent and marked spaces along the mosaic wall in the courtyard for fair weather days and the gymnasium bleachers and team-bench areas for foul-weather days,” added Schlierf.
“The school has a Return Team Committee made up of staff representatives from all departments along with all Coordinators and facilitators. This committee has worked since mid-March on the Return Plan. We received input and feedback from the district as well as DESE and had to make some changes in our proposed schedule (the one that appeared in the Return Plan) to increase the amount of structured learning time to provide 935 hours of structured learning time. The Administration team, Coordinators, and teachers have been working to finalize that schedule,” said Principal Joe Scozzaro.
Cutting afternoon Eagle Block does “mean that seniors will no longer be able to leave early for their last few weeks of school,” Burke added. “Seniors will be in school to hopefully enjoy the last few weeks of high school with their classmates.”
Since “senior privilege this year has happened during PM Eagle Block, when we move to the new schedule, there will be a class that meets during the after lunchtime slot,” said Scozzaro. “That means for the seniors’ last five weeks of school, there will be no opportunity for senior privileges. We regret this inconvenience, but we are hopeful that seniors are looking forward to returning to what is very close to “normal” school day for their last 5 weeks at SHS.”
Prior to announcing the new schedule, all students were required to make the decision of whether they would return to school or not. However, these decisions were made under the assumption that the schedule would remain the same. Many students felt blindsided by the announcement of a new schedule and expressed their frustration.
“The two things that have made this year bearable are Wednesday schedules and senior privileges. We have had everything fun about our senior year taken away and the transition back to fully in person is going to be stressful and a lot to handle,” said senior Samantha Sherman.
Sherman says that she feels more safe eating at home and hopes there is consideration and conversations with students about how they feel about the changes.
Senior Janelle Li agreed. “I guess I’m just a little disappointed that after losing our senior year, we lost our senior privileges too.” Li, along with many other seniors would have preferred having “Eagle Block in the afternoon instead of in the morning so that seniors could leave early.”
Mental health is another concern students have. “They completely ruined our last month in school while also not providing any senior events or privileges, and they are making the end of an already difficult year much harder for students’ mental health,” said senior Nicky Wang.
The short notice also affected many student’s schedules. It “completely destroyed my work schedule” and did not give me enough time to “request a new one,” said senior Megan Hanlon.
Overall, students and teachers alike say there is a disconnect between administration and the rest of the school. “I think that the lack of transparency is causing a lot of the anger in the school. We are not treated with the respect we deserve, yet we are expected to just suck it up and go along with what we are told to do. There was no explanation behind why eagle block could not have been moved to the end of the day or why there was no attempt to incorporate senior privileges,” said a senior.
Teachers are also concerned about the new schedule and “do not want drastic changes to the schedule,” said Sharon Teachers Association president Ms. Bernadette Murphy. “We are concerned that students who remain in remote learning will become disengaged if the minutes/hours on Zoom increase significantly.”
“Unfortunately the state-imposed some new restrictions on our school recently which don’t give us the time or flexibility to gather lots of opinions. The new schedule goes into effect when we return from school vacation so there’s no time to gather feedback and make changes at this point,” says Instructional Technology Specialist Ms. Stacy Newman.
Burke says teachers are flexible and will do their best to adapt to this ever-changing environment. “One would hope that we model this flexibility in our thinking and practice for our students,” added Burke.