Behind-the-Scenes of the New Schedule Change

Administration expresses their reasoning and students voice their opinions about changes to the schedule post COVID.

Seanna Sankar, Online Managing Editor

Editor’s Note: Due to an editing error, John Rankin was misidentified as Assistant Head of School, Strategic Initiatives rather than philosophy teacher. The story has been updated.


In recent years, Poly’s schedule has undergone many changes — some major, some minor. Nonetheless, these changes affect the daily lives of students and faculty. Assistant Head of School, Academics Michal Hershkovitz said, “We believe that we have made changes this year that address many, many needs we identified last year, including dedicated time for our DEIB and affinity/alliance group work, more meeting times for teachers and students, and opportunities for student forums.”


From late January to March of the 21-22 school year, Head of Upper School Sarah Bates met with administration, department chairs, and five students from the Class of ’22 to discuss the goals of the academic day. According to Bates, an important feature they wanted to maintain was an eight class stream in the seven-day rotation so that students have time for the classes they want to take while also being able to have a free period. The rotating schedule makes it so that students won’t repeatedly miss the same class if they are absent or late often on the same weekday.


In addition to keeping the seven-day rotation and a five-period school day, all Upper School students now have a 30-minute break, usually attached to a lunch block or in between a class. This time can be spent meeting with teachers, catching up on school work, or socializing.


Lea Glass, a junior, said that the break is “really nice to have in the middle of the day.” Glass also added that the break “allows [her] to catch up with teachers.”


However, junior Jasmine Donald who is taking a full course load this semester, said that the allocated 30-minutes is insufficient for her to get work done or compose herself into a productive environment. She continued, “even if I did [use the time to meet with teachers], I don’t think I’d have enough time to get to that teacher, go over my issue with the teacher, have them explain it to me, and absorb and understand that information all in 30 minutes.”


Similarly, junior Zeke Wise said, “I usually spend the time talking to [my friends]. The thing with the 30-minute free is that by the time you find a place to sit down and you take out your work, you only have about 15-20 minutes to actually do [work] and that doesn’t really make much of an impact.”


Another significant change is the shift to 65-minute class periods. “The 70 minutes [from last year] certainly didn’t work anymore,” said Registrar Lori Redell. Both Bates and Hershkovitz also mentioned that there was a great push towards keeping classes as long as possible while still maintaining a five-period day. 


Bates noted that classes meeting less often and for less time reduces the frequency of homework and overall workload. Bates explained that “65-minute classes seem to be going better.”  


“I would say the class time is definitely more effective. Even though it’s only five minutes less than last year, it feels a lot more manageable,” said junior Eleanor Brown. Glass, however, said “I would prefer if we had shorter classes because I feel like 65 minutes versus 70 minutes isn’t that big of a difference.”


According to Independent School Management Inc.’s website, “There is no ‘right’ length of time for classes at your school—and in fact, class times vary greatly even at schools of similar grade levels and pedagogies.” Whether longer classes are successful or not depends on if the teacher can effectively keep students engaged.

Philosophy teacher John Rankin said, “My classes are interactive [and] conversational enough that I’m not worried about [students completing] a specific task in some amount of time. So for me, it works fine, but I can see where other [teachers] would have some trouble with that.” Rankin continued, “Sixty-five or 70 minutes doesn’t really make that much difference to me.”


The last major difference is the change in start and end times for the school day. During COVID, Poly had an 8:30 a.m start time which was eventually pushed forward to 9:00. However, this year, Poly administration compromised on an 8:45 a.m start time. The end time, however, moved from last year’s 3:40 to 3:35. Subtracting five minutes from the end of the day gives students 25 minutes before catching the 4 o’clock bus, getting ready for athletics, or for performing arts.


“The only thing I don’t like is how early we start. We haven’t started this early in about two years,” Glass said.


Hershkovitz also explained that certain aspects of the schedule, such as start and end times, had to be negotiated in order to accommodate shared space with the Middle School, bus schedules, after-school practices and rehearsals, and the belief that later start times are better for adolescent minds and sleep patterns. 


Rankin, who had worked on the previous schedules for over 20 years, said, “scheduling is one of those things [that] administrators [don’t] spend a lot of time thinking about. Or, for that matter, anyone else. But if it doesn’t work, nothing else works either.”