Editorial: New schedule creates consistency through compromise

Editor’s Note: The opinion below reflects the majority opinion of The Paly Voice staff.

Along with the new school year came a new bell schedule, initiating ripples of both satisfaction and discontent in the Palo Alto High School community. As the first quarter of the 2019-2020 school year comes to a close, The Paly Voice reflects on the new schedule and its impact on students.

Though not perfect, the schedule is an improvement from that of the previous year. It provides the consistency that earlier versions lacked; Tuesdays and Thursdays are always Even Days and Wednesdays and Fridays are always Odd, while Mondays alternate between Even and Odd Days. Last year’s Even-Odd cycle differed from week to week, creating difficulties for students when arranging appointments in advance. With the new schedule, however, four out of five days of the week remain constant, and planning for the future becomes much more straightforward.

Consistent dismissal times from one week to the next significantly aid in the scheduling of after-school activities, especially for student-athletes, who comprise a large portion of the student body. Club sports and some Paly sports generally schedule practices at consistent times week to week, without regard to what time students are released from class. In previous years, this has presented challenges and confusion for students trying to work these practices into their personal schedules. Now, students can rely on consistent dismissal times to plan their extracurriculars.

Samuel Howles-Banerji, Chemistry teacher and member of the Innovative Schedule Committee, pointed out that the new schedule not only brings more consistency, but that the variance in weekly schedule also allows odd and even periods to alternate between taking tests first.

“It rotates who gets the material first, which will also mean it rotates who takes the test first,” Howles-Banerji said. “I think it will lead to more balanced instruction and more balanced testing.” 

Under last year’s schedule, students in odd periods often took tests before those in even periods. As a result, not-so-academically honest Even-Day test-takers consistently had the advantage of getting test information in advance from their not-so-academically honest peers.

Though The Paly Voice does not condone cheating or academic dishonesty in any form, we have to acknowledge that the sharing of test information between students is a reality. The new schedule breaks the cycle, taking the advantage away from even period students by switching between weeks where Even and Odd Days lead and subsequently alternating whether even and odd classes take tests first. 

However, one disadvantage of the schedule is the long periods of time between classes that are created by alternating Monday block days. When an Even day falls on a Monday, students will not see their odd period classes for four days. Likewise, when Mondays are Odd, there is a four day gap between when even classes will meet. While the break does allow plenty of time to complete homework, with this much time between classes students may have a difficult time retaining information from the previous lesson. But with seven periods spread out across a five day week, there is always going to be an element of inconsistency. Here, a less-than-ideal break between classes over the weekend is a necessary sacrifice to ensure regularity throughout the rest of the week.

Another aspect of the schedule that has upset students is back-to-back even classes. Every other week, an Even Day on Monday is immediately followed by another Even Day on Tuesday. For students with difficult classes on Even Days, completing homework that previously would not have been due the next day can be a challenge. To ameliorate this problem, The Paly Voice suggests a homework policy that would call for teachers to assign the homework a day in advance, so that students can work over the weekend, or alternatively, reduce the amount of homework assigned that is due the next day.

According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, the Paly Administration has not yet discussed any changes to the bell schedule for next year. However, it is still early, and as problems with the schedule are resolved or created throughout the year, there is room for change. Even so, we hope that the new schedule is able to remain consistent throughout the coming years to minimize confusion like that created in the past by frequent schedule changes. 

Though the new and improved consistency eases the scheduling of after-school activities, it also comes at the cost of back-to-back classes for even periods and long breaks between odds. And though not without flaws, this year’s schedule is a compromise that must be made in order to maintain both a consistent schedule and a balanced learning environment.