By Priyanka Chiguluri / Editor-in-Chief and Amelia Olafsson / News Editor
Over the past two years, Harpeth Hall’s Upper School has adopted various drafts of its daily schedule. Despite a desire for consistency in the aftermath of last year’s ever-evolving schedule, HH has already shifted its Upper School schedule multiple times this fall.
“The schedule has changed so much that I often don’t even know where I’m going and when I’m supposed to be there,” junior Allie Cunningham said.
Before the initial plan to change the schedule was announced early in 2020, Harpeth Hall’s daily schedule consisted of four 80-minute classes each day, a 20-minute break, a 30-minute lunch and a 50-minute X-block. Three classes met in the morning and were divided by the break. Later in the day, the third class followed lunch and X-block.
Although a permanent schedule was proposed at the beginning of 2020, various remote and hybrid learning models led to numerous schedule changes throughout the year. For example, frequent breaks between classes were added to allow students time to join Zoom meetings or transition to their next blocks.
Following the COVID-19 schedules, administrators, such as Harpeth Hall Database/Website Administrator and Analyst Shari Shepard, proposed three drafts of a schedule for the 2021-2022 school year, and the Upper School decided on a final schedule model.
Now, the Upper School schedule is as follows: Two 75-minute classes split up by an hour-long Community Time in the morning, a 50-minute lunch break and two more 75-minute classes in the afternoon. However, on Day 2, which is when All School Assemblies occur, Community Time precedes the first two classes.
“It’s obvious that students learn differently at different times of the day,” Upper School Academic Dean and World Languages Teacher Mrs. Claire González said.
Additionally, the school day starts at 7:55 instead of 8 a.m., with the exception of the newly implemented Late Start Wednesdays when the first class of the day begins at 9 a.m. Each school day ends at 3:10 p.m., as it did before the changes were made.
The changes to the schedule were made primarily to provide students with more time to spend with their community during the school day, through a longer X-block, which was renamed Community Time. Furthermore, it was necessary to have overlap between the Upper and Middle School schedules, so Upper Schoolers and Middle Schoolers could attend Community Time meetings and assemblies together.
Another goal of the new schedule was to give students more passing time between each class, in the form of 10 to 20-minute breaks, but those breaks are not possible this semester for several reasons.
“It is challenging not to have a break between classes,” Upper School English Teacher Jessie Yancey said. “I know for me when I’m teaching back to back, I really have to take a deep breath in those 5 minutes between classes before starting over again, and I’m sure for the students rushing from point A to point B is challenging.”
With the first round of schedule changes, frequent lunch meetings were also prohibited to allow busy Upper School students a break from their day with their peers. This past year, however, lunch meetings have again become common.
Director of the Upper School Ms. Armistead Lemon is working on transforming the Upper School schedule. Because of her role on campus, she serves as a bridge between students, faculty members and administrators. These observations lead to comparisons between the schedule shifts during both the first full pandemic year and the current school year.
“The late start day and Day 2 seem a little bit more rushed with less passing time. What’s really interesting is that’s how we used to be,” Ms. Lemon said.
“Last year we got used to having space between each class, so having less passing time does not feel good.”
Along with Ms. Lemon, other faculty members not only have noticed an uptick in the exchange of feedback surrounding the schedule changes but also have lived through multiple Upper School schedules. For example, Upper School Math Teacher Jennifer Webster has been teaching at Harpeth Hall for 17 years and has witnessed approximately three drastic changes to the Upper School schedule in that time.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen any performance results necessarily, but I’ve certainly heard feedback about it,” Mrs. Webster said.
Many students do have their own opinions about the changes. There is polarity among the students as some have found benefits in the schedule changes while others have found a sense of upheaval in their school days.
Those who have found benefit in the schedule specifically enjoy the extra time that the Late Start Wednesdays have afforded them.
“I think that having late starts on Wednesdays helps students a lot,” said Student Council President and senior Elizabeth Allen.
Conversely, some students believe that the negative aspects of the schedule, such as an earlier start in the morning and no additional breaks between classes, outweigh the positive components. However, taking 10 minute breaks out of the schedule was a result of the new overlap between Middle School and Upper School lunch blocks this year. With both Middle and Upper School students standing in line for lunch, the Dining Hall becomes crowded, and a large portion of the lunch block for all students and teachers is spent waiting to get their food.
“Living the schedule is where it got complicated, and I think one of the biggest problems that came in was the crossover of the Middle School girls and the Upper School girls during lunchtime,” Mrs. Shephard said. “It’s just a lot of people in the same space in a very limited amount of time.”
Furthermore, the current schedule is likely not the final draft. Some possible changes in the near and distant future are incorporating an afternoon break, starting the first class five minutes later at 8 a.m. and moving Community Time back to its original space after lunch.
“I do actually think [the schedule] will change this year. I think that once the lunch situation feels a little more tenable, we have more Dining Hall workers, and we, as people, figure out how we’re supposed to move, I do think we’ll make a few tweaks,” Ms. Lemon said.
“I think that getting an afternoon break back and moving the start of the day to 8:00 are some possibilities.”
Although there have been many positive and negative consequences of the schedule changes, in the coming months and years, the Upper School schedule will likely transform to better support the Harpeth Hall community.