Branson introduces new academic schedule

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Abby Keenley

Senior Connor Williams kicks a football through the new field goal during assembly. The new schedule includes assembly twice a week.

Reese Dahlgren

After the abrupt changes to last year’s student life as a result of the pandemic, Branson established a new eight-block academic schedule to set a better pace for the 2021-2022 school year. 

Prioritizing student safety through social distancing and contact tracing, the previous academic term had strict cohorts and a three classes per day system. As COVID-19 mandates for schools lowered in California, the administration approached alterations to this year’s biweekly schedule with the goals of consistency and student opportunity. Director of Studies Chance Sims headed the operation alongside Director of Teaching and Learning Jeff Symonds and the department chairs.

“There were limitations with the schedule we had last year because it was defined around COVID,” Sims said. “We really felt that coming back into this year, we wanted to maximize the students’ choices with the classes they were interested in.”

Sims also mentioned that moving to an eight-block schedule minimized the impact of electives — classes that do not have a flexible time slot — on student schedules, giving students access to a variety of course opportunities. 

The eight blocks also granted students more free time during the school day. Head of School Chris Mazzola, who worked with Sims and the administration on the final processes of implementing the new schedule, said that students now have more space to make their own decisions and use their time independently. 

“We wanted to create a schedule that also gave more free time to students during the day to do homework, meet with teachers, and do clubs,” Mazzola said. “Students should have the freedom to make their own decisions on how to spend their time.”

Student opinions were also taken into account when creating the schedule. Sims said that several meetings were held with students prior to the beginning of the school year to introduce them to the altered schedule and receive their feedback. Student perspective currently varies with both positive and negative reactions.

Brooke Wangenheim, a senior taking six classes this year, said, “I really like a lot of my classes, especially Environmental Science. It’s nice to have free blocks again, but having two classes after lunch can be really tiring.”

As the school year continues, surveys from teachers and students will provide more feedback for Sims and his team to review the biweekly schedule in action. 

“We will certainly track how things are going and make adjustments as we go,” Sims said. “It will be an opportunity for us to see if what we’ve conceptualized plays out well.”