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New School Schedule for Upcoming Year

Draft of the rotating flex schedule for the next school year.

Draft of the rotating flex schedule for the next school year.

Draft of the rotating flex schedule for the next school year.

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New Milford High School is being introduced to one of its most innovative and controversial changes the community will likely ever undergo. Administrators across the board have confirmed that the school will be adopting a new school schedule that is altering the daily routine for students and teachers alike.

The schedule proposal eliminates the current schedule and consists of rotating periods, a unified lunch, and a “flex period.” NMHS is currently following a traditional schedule where there is an 8 period day, each period being 48 minutes long.

The unified lunch would be 50 minutes long for students and teachers, and allow seniors to go out to eat. The media center, courtyard, senior lounge, and other parts of the building would be open, as well, to compensate for the smaller cafeteria unable to seat all the students.

Assistant Superintendent, Danielle Shanley, confirmed that the cafeteria would be insufficient to accommodate every student in the building, and therefore renovations for the current senior lounge or possible “student lounge” are expected. Assistant Superintendent Shanley went on to state that “…the current cafe has 240 seats, but the capacity is 371…The updates to the senior lounge will afford us another 60 seats.  The library gives us over 120 seats.  That’s 550 without the outside areas. This year, approximately 30 seniors eat in the cafe each day.  So if we assume the same will be said of next year’s seniors, we will have plenty of seats even if we cannot eat outside. We will also add more kiosks and points of sale to expedite purchases and offer more lunch options.”

This unified lunch period would not be for administrators, the school resource officer, nurse, members of the guidance department, child study team and the school student assistance counselor.  Assistant Superintendent Shanley clarified that “Only the administrative team will be monitoring students during lunch. If necessary, monitoring of students during lunch may be an assigned rotated teacher duty just like it is now. But none of that has been thoroughly flushed out yet….[the school resource officer, nurse, guidance team, child study team, and student assistance counselor] will be there [during unified lunch] to serve the students during that time. So if a student needs to go to guidance, they can stop in during lunch and counselors will be available.”

The flex period has been described in a variety of ways by the administration.  In some explanations that have been presented to the student body, the flex period is a period where students can do homework, attend extra help, hang out, or take an enrichment class, taught by volunteer students or teachers. These enrichment classes would not be considered a class or provide students with the necessary credits for graduation, but “help establish a sense of community” among teachers and students. Ten minutes of the beginning or end of the rotating flex period will contain a mandatory homeroom meeting for students, as well.  

Assistant Superintendent Shanley further clarified this definition, stating, “With an emphasis on creativity and innovation and a newly renovated media center with the maker space, students rarely have time to embark on personal inquiry or explore their passions and creative ideas further. Since students are often assigned group and collaborative projects in their classes, this flex period would provide time for students to physically work together should they choose.  We would also love the opportunity to plan film festivals of academic and social relevance, as well as offer open gym and fitness center. There are students who would like to embark on credit bearing independent studies, but who have little time to do that. Imagine a student who would like to conduct a 2.5 or 5.0 credit independent study in art, and now has additional flex time to work on those projects. Or an independent study student who is interested in film and or music, who might like to film and edit work and then celebrate with a showing or performance during the flex.  Think about the seasons of the year when chorus, or the band or the orchestra might require additional rehearsal time, and can now do that during scheduled flex.  I’m sure there will be plenty of times where students will go to teachers for extra help during flex, or maybe the National Honor Society might like to offer students tutoring during flex. The high school could engage in service opportunities during this time, fundraising during this time, Giving Tuesday activities during this time, field house painting during this time.”

Additionally, Assistant Superintendent Shanley said, “It is very important to acknowledge the fact that the flex period is not being constructed for students to do homework, and it is not being constructed as a free. What we are hoping to do is provide an opportunity for self exploration, independent study, and also take care of administrative or guidance meetings which are necessary throughout the year but that historically remove students from instructional time. The most beautiful part about the flex is that it will be defined by the desires of the faculty and of the students, and it will be re-defined repeatedly.  We don’t have a time during the school day where students could leave school to engage in job shadowing opportunities. A flex period at the end of the day will open up a wide variety of opportunities we cannot even imagine possible. That’s why we’ve called it flex.  The need for personal academic inquiry in high school is my FIRST reason for supporting this schedule. ”

When it comes to science lab periods, those will now be run during the extended block periods, instead of cutting into health/physical education classes.  Assistant Superintendent Shanley endorsed the use of the extended periods for activities such as AP practice testing, debates, presentations, TEDTalks, and Socratic seminars.

Assistant Superintendent Shanley went on to explain that the idea for this new schedule developed from what was observed at Pascack Valley High School, as well as her own personal visit with Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, a high school which has run a rotating schedule for a number of years. Principal Louis Manuppelli decided to visit PVHS and follow a schedule similar to theirs, “but not follow exactly in order to avoid the same mistakes,” seen in their format.

Assistant Superintendent Shanley went on to describe the support the New Milford Board of Education also expressed. “Even though the schedule proposal does not need to be approved by the Board, it was shared with them so they would understand it. They were actually very supportive.”

Assistant Superintendent Shanley also added, “This new schedule is more progressive and allows students to practice 21st century skills.”

She finished the interview by asserting that this “proposed schedule” is “definitely happening.”

“[Administration] believe[s] in its value for students and don’t want to wait. It will be starting right in September [2017] for the next school year, but maybe we’ll have a sample day for students.” This would be similar to the current move up day, where students go through their schedule for the following year, usually in the beginning of June.

Principal Manuppelli has placed emphasis on the new schedule’s ability to foster creativity within the school community and allow students to “get [their] fix in.” While also addressing the issues of space and monitoring students during the common lunch, Principal Manuppelli mentioned that a common lunch opens up room for “collaboration between teachers and students” and time for “relaxing during lunch.”

As far as dealing with behavioral issues, Principal Manuppelli states that “we’ll trust you until you can’t be trusted” and that student behavior will be addressed individually.

According to Principal Manuppelli, the rotating schedule “keeps it fresh for teachers and students” and allows for “teachers to experience students at different times during the day” and vice versa. In regards to students with anxiety and OCD, Principal Manuppelli also added that there will be “hard copies of the rotating schedule”, “monitors in the hallway to notify students”, and possibly an “app to monitor the schedule” in order to help with monitoring and organization.  

When it comes to teacher concerns, there is a wide array of opinions regarding the new schedule. Some see it as a sudden, but proactive change, while others have expressed that it is “unnecessary” and are more fearful of the uncertainty than excited.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the schedule was the line of communication. Some information leaked down to several students prior to teachers, therefore providing leeway for rumors and doubt to form. After administrators decided to hold assemblies for grades 9-11 to better explain this routine change, some opinions changed. One junior simply said, “it’s not as bad as I thought.”

Another anonymous student agrees. “At first I didn’t really like it, but now I guess it makes sense. A lot of schools use this type of schedule so I didn’t really see a big issue with it. I thought the whole flex period thing was stupid and I’m still upset that I can’t leave the school. It’s literally a period where you don’t do anything and ‘study’. Little do they know that I like to study and can only study in a specific environment – my room.”

One major concern for teachers was the learning and teaching adjustment of a 48 minute period, to an 87 minute class during the block schedules. Assistant Superintendent Shanley replied with, “There will be professional development for the teachers to learn [and adjust] to the 87 minutes, rather than just the 48 minute class.”

There are still many questions and anticipation over how exactly this schedule will run. When it snows or rains, where will students eat if the courtyard and outside the lunchroom will not be available?  On the odd/even days when students have gym for 87 minutes, will there be working showers for them afterwards? How will the school ensure seniors return after the unified lunch with the flex period giving them more free time to stay out? Although the new schedule leaves many issues up in the air, hopefully the change is as productive and successful as administration hopes it will be.

*Adviser’s Note:  An earlier version of this article referred incompletely to information about the flex period, seating restrictions for the unified lunch, and the use of the extended period. This article has been updated to reflect complete information provided by Assistant Superintendent Danielle Shanley in follow up emails.

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The student news site of New Milford High School, New Milford, New Jersey
New School Schedule for Upcoming Year