Questions about next year’s bell schedule have been spreading throughout University High School in the past months. Our school community is divided about whether or not this year’s schedule provides the most benefit for both teachers and students. This has been especially visible within the teacher community depending on the nature of each subject. Surveys have been given to teachers, students and parents in gathering information about what each group prefers and needs.
Over the past two years, UHS has been on a schedule adopted by Irvine Unified School District (IUSD). This schedule was the same for all high schools in IUSD, seeing as how it was needed to fairly incorporate students who moved to Irvine Virtual Academy (IVA) after resuming in-person learning in the school year of 2021-2022.
Our current schedule has worked effectively for humanities-based classes, which focus more on understanding and building on previous knowledge as opposed to learning new concepts.
“Seeing AP Lang kids two to three times a week makes them bring their BEST game,” one of the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition teachers Mrs. Christine King said. “Seeing them five days a week can be boring and redundant.”
The different lessons in humanities classes are built upon each other. It is very easy to get in the “zone” of analyzing ideas or writing an essay. Once you learn how to write an argument, you generally find yourself immersed in analyzing the things around you to make a point, which is an advantage when you want to keep your head straight for a 60-minute data-based question essay (DBQ) in history or a 40-minute argument essay in English.
However, students taking classes with more new content to cover are at a disadvantage. Students meet with their teachers in class for 210 minutes per week with the new schedule, which is 39 fewer minutes than our pre-COVID schedule.
“We were accustomed to seeing students four days a week in class and now it’s three days a week in class,” the head of UHS’ Math Department Mr. Eric Shulman said. “Sometimes the instruction is even difficult for certain subjects to have two block days. Teachers, like myself, had more difficulty getting through the content.”
In addition to the decreased instruction time, Office Hours have been a point of contention as well. Most tests in University High School require an hour or more. Our current Office Hours are only 30 minutes, which consequently troubles both students who miss tests and teachers who have to help with make-ups. Oftentimes, teachers have to take their time to help students make up for their missed tests and quizzes before or after school.
“Tests and essays cannot be done in a 30-minute Office Hour [period],” Mrs. King said. “Also, how do you catch up after missing 85 minutes of instruction?”
The athletes of UHS are also affected by this year’s schedule. Student-athletes often have to leave their last class early for away games, which affects their instruction time and ability to keep up with assignments.
“When we have away games, we usually have to leave early and miss any extra information from class, especially if it’s a hard AP class,” a member of the girls’ soccer team Faith Hong said. “And if we have tests, most times we will have to miss or try to rush through it because we need to [take] the bus.”
It is not possible to go back to our pre-COVID schedule as a result of 2019’s Senate Bill 328, which mandated a later school start. High schools will be allowed to deviate from the district-adopted schedule and design their own, which will help us achieve the specific needs of UHS.
“We will give a second survey to our staff that is more detailed so we can understand a little more about the dynamics of teaching and learn on the schedules,” UHS Principal Dr. Kevin Astor said. “Our leadership team, essentially our department chairs, are working through all of that right now and then our next step will be what options we want to present to our teachers to vote on.”