Students complain of scheduling issues

Stefan Silverio

Finance Director

(October 19, 2015)

With the number of students steadily rising at Nantucket High School, administrators are faced with the increasingly difficult task of creating a schedule that accommodates the course requirements, the requests of each student, and supports the teachers and staff.

Creating a schedule is like assembling a puzzle according to guidance counselor Jennifer Psaradelis.

“We try to balance course requirements with student interests,” Psaradelis said. “Our goal is to always fill all student requests and requirements. Unfortunately, we can’t always do this.”

Junior Victoria Wilson explained the difficulty she experienced entering this school year with her schedule: “I only had five blocks and no math or history classes even though I had asked for them. I went to the school in the summer and asked for them to change this, but they didn’t until the first day of school. This was very stressful for me.”

Junior Fernando Young found himself in a similar position when he received his schedule. “After sending my desired schedule with seven classes I received one only with only two classes and a bunch of white space,”said Young, “This was very alarming. Fortunately, this problem was mostly resolved.”

So why were there so many and such dramatic scheduling issues this year?

“In previous years, students received their schedules earlier in the spring and could resolve many of their scheduling issues before leaving school for the summer. Last spring, this didn’t really happen. We hope next summer we can more conveniently address scheduling issues.”

Although this makes sense, Wilson’s case also begs the question of why these scheduling issues have taken until the first day of school to be resolved? “Last year most issues were from conversion to the new Aspen system,” said Psaradelis. “This spring the issues were with the learning curve of how to create a schedule in Aspen. We’re still learning how to use Aspen. We are anticipating fewer scheduling issues next year since we will be used to Aspen.”

High school principal John Buckey however, has a different view on these scheduling issues. “I see them more as difficult choices than ‘issues’.”

Perhaps an example of this was with Junior Emily Ballinger. “This summer my schedule was done late I had to fix it,” she said. “I wanted AP Biology and Honors U.S. 1 History but I couldn’t do this. I choose to take AP Biology and couldn’t take a history class this year. This was annoying.”

Most of these scheduling “issues” occurred with students who are taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Buckey added “this problem usually occurs because AP courses are usually ‘singletons.’ For instance there is only one AP History Class, one AP Government Class, one AP Spanish Class, and one AP Physics class.

“I see them more as difficult choices than ‘issues’,” said Buckey.

This was the case with Ballinger who did not take any AP classes last year and reported “last year my schedule was all set.”

Regardless of whether or not these problems with scheduling are “issues” or “difficult choices,” some students are wondering if not being able to take the classes they want will affect their chances of getting into a competitive college.

“I think that this scheduling conflict is quite unfortunate and doesn’t allow for some students to enter college applications with optimal course credits,” said Jacob Dupont.

Ballinger, however, was not worried about this and reported “I’m not looking to major in history so I don’t think so. Science is more important to me.”

While many students believe there was an increase in scheduling issues this year, Buckey does not agree. “I don’t see it as more difficult this year than in previous years, he said. “A teacher with balanced sections would say ‘it was an easier year,’ while a teacher with unbalanced section would say ‘it’s a harder year.’ Inevitably there are conflicts.”

Spanish teacher Kate Hickson has an “unbalanced section,” and said “my AP spanish class went from 25 students down to 11 this Fall. Several students switched in without having completed the summer homework.”

The trend of “singleton” AP classes causing scheduling issues held true here as Hickson reported “there was no AP Spanish last year and I didn’t have nearly as many scheduling issues.”

Many other teachers are experiencing similar scheduling issues as Hickson reported “I know of one class that has two different sections with 30 students in one section and 9 in the other.” Buckey verified this statement by adding “it’s not always as easy as 40 kids with two sections of 20 students.”

Buckey also cited a specific example from this year to demonstrate the challenges of scheduling: “last spring 39 kids signed up for the AP Capstone course so I sent two teachers to Chicago this summer for a week to get trained in the course. Twenty four students dropped the course so now we have only one section with 15 students in it. This just goes to show you how dramatically things can change.”

After a difficult fall of scheduling many wonder if changes will be made to next year’s scheduling policies. Dr. Buckey noted “absolutely. Every year we look to better all of our policies. We never just recycle policies and run them exactly the same the next year. We always look for student interests and student requests for courses to better the schedule.

Psaradelis agreed, adding “we are always looking for new ways to change the schedule to better suit students needs. We want them to not only meet their requirements but to find more interests. This year we added a nursing program, a landscaping program, and a required facilities and maintenance program to accomplish this.”

Regardless of whether one views scheduling complications as “difficult choices” or “issues” Buckey summed up his thoughts on scheduling at Nantucket High School with “scheduling in a small school is challenging; and the opportunities that we provide are unparalleled in other schools. Students here are provided with tremendous opportunity.”

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