Students adjust to six-week rotations

Ellis Keeffe

As Branson continues to push through its six-week rotation, with only three classes throughout the rotation, students report having trouble remembering concepts from the previous rotation. 

Before winter break, Branson used a three-week rotation, with three classes in each rotation. In the new rotation system, there is a week of online school to allow for COVID-19 testing for employees and students, followed by five weeks of in-person classes. 

Sabrina Wilson, dean of student life, and Chance Sims, director of studies, have been working “untold hours” to lay out there changes, wrote Chris Mazzola, the head of school, in an email.

Sims said that the “changes minimized transitions” and were made to “mitigate the impact of quarantine.”

Although he and Wilson were at the forefront of the decision, Sims said that the decision was conversed and agreed upon by around 20 people, including the COVID-19 Task Force and other employees.

While these changes come with benefits, there have been downsides expressed by the student body. Students have been having issues retaining information from the previous rotation. 

Before the implementation of the six-week rotation schedules, quarantines that had to occur would roll over from the ABC rotation into the DEF rotation. Sims also said that he was aware of the effects of this rotation change, and said that “this was the biggest consequence.” Speaking on this, Sims wanted to make clear that teachers are expected to review material from the previous rotation. Sims also recognized that the classes with the most detriment to learning would be language and math.

The new schedule is also unlikely to change because the school already finished the first six-week rotation, and the next three blocks need to have the same amount of time. After the two six-week rotations, students have two four-week rotations to end the year. 

As the first six-week rotation progressed, Branson students have expressed a concern of the inability to remember information from the previous rotation. 

In a survey conducted in February of 94 Branson students, students were asked to rate how well they were retaining information on a scale of 1-10. The vast majority of students answered 3 (17 percent), 4 (18.1 percent), 5 (17 percent) or 6 (15.1 percent), and 0 percent of people answered a 10. Additionally, 12 percent of respondents answered a 1 or 2, indicating that they do not remember anything from the previous rotation. 

Andrew Van Vorhees, a junior, wrote in a interview document that he could only remember previous rotation’s work as a 3/10, and said that his science class was his hardest to remember since his other classes “don’t require memory,” and that his science class was hard to memorize. He also said: “I have little confidence in my ability to solve the problems and engage with the content from the previous rotation” as a result of the six-week rotation. He said that the rotations should last three weeks at most so that the information can be better retained. 

Brayden Mathews, another junior taking different classes, wrote in an interview document that, although he had a little bit of trouble remembering things from classes, specifically his Mandarin class, he would prefer “10 weeks straight of one rotation, then 10 weeks of the other, and then call it a semester. However, with year-long classes that complicates it, so I think the six-week four-week is OK, just having the holiday break in addition to the ABC rotation amplified the effect of the time off.”  

In contrast to these voices, when James Daly, a junior, was asked about Branson’s rotation, he trusted that the decision to take time off from classes would be just fine, saying, “It isn’t hard to remember for me. If I need to, I can do some review.” He did, however, say that sometimes during these long periods away from classes his memory of the knowledge can be a little fuzzy. 

Another student, Audrey Knowles, a freshman, said that she actually would rate her retention ability from the previous rotation as a 7/10. She said, however, that her hardest class to remember was her Spanish class, due to the class “not practicing enough conjugates, and not reviewing enough.”