Controversy Over New Online Schedule

Esther Fu, Contributing Writer

On September 11th, five days before the first day of school, CRLS finally released the official remote learning schedule to distressed students awaiting clarity on their school year. Fifty minute classes, as well as a day off on Wednesday every week, created an uproar of concern, confusion, and uneasiness among students and staff in the community. In a statement, Principal Damon Smith defended the school’s new measures, writing, “Throughout the summer, CRLS educators and staff worked tirelessly to design a remote school environment that is student-centered and focused on growth and learning.”

Many CRLS students felt that the school committee did not consider their views nor solicit their comments when designing the schedule. Birkti Kahsai ’23 indicated that she was “frustrated that the administration did not ask for feedback [from students] about this year’s schedule.” On the contrary, Principal Smith felt that the school had done their consultation, saying in his letter, “CRLS scholars… have collaborated with stakeholders in preparation of the school year.” Students were given the opportunity to share their thoughts with the school committee in a series of Zoom meetings during the summer, therefore, Smith may be referring to a handful of students who were part of the process. Nevertheless, students’ representation in the process is questionable. 

I am sitting for 50 minutes listening to a teacher lecture. It gets exhausting.

— Tenley Ransom '21

In an Instagram poll asking students their thoughts on the length of their classes, the most common answer was “just right.” However, many thought otherwise. Eli Kanner ’23 said, “50 minute classes are too short. Some teachers run out of time because they are used to having another half-hour of class time.” Senior Tenley Ransom, on the other hand, complained that the classes “feel long … I am sitting for 50 minutes listening to a teacher lecture. It gets exhausting.” Max Reuter ’22, who was in agreement with the majority of the people who took the poll, shared, “[50 minute classes] give just the right amount of time to get things done and not have too much screen time.” 

While each student gave a one-sided view on the length of classes, teachers seem to be mindful of both the pros and cons of the class length. Mr. Evan Milstein-Greengart, a 9th grade English teacher at CRLS, explained, “The fifty-minute classes are hard to adjust to, but allow me to focus on specific skills to cover during that time. We lose … [class time] to … hold lengthy discussions, which are definite downsides.” 

Adding to Mr. Greengart’s remark, chemistry teacher Mr. Sunny Gupta suggested, “If we need to allow deep learning to happen in a synchronous environment, we have to have a discussion-based class requiring a block schedule (100-minute blocks twice a week) … Dialogic education has been shown to be an effective way of learning in all settings.”

Furthermore, a counter-argument was brought up by taking reference to other schools that offer longer classes and more school days per week. For example, schools like Buckingham Browne & Nichols Upper School and Lexington High School are currently doing hybrid classes (some online classes and some in-person classes) as well as five day weeks. At the expense of losing class time and learning opportunities in the new scheme, CRLS students are put at a relative disadvantage when preparing for standardized testing. Laura Leong, a freshman at Newton Country Day School, which is currently doing all in-person classes, told the Register Forum, “I love the system they have, every student does COVID tests every week… On some days, we have longer classes, and on others, we have shorter ones.” The school’s longest class is 100 minutes, doubling the time of a CRLS class. Therefore, more material can be taught in a single class session. 

Later on in the school year, CRLS revealed that classes would be made up on Wednesdays that follow a public holiday. Students criticized the school’s insensitivity in treating holidays, especially religious ones, as sick days. Sophomore Sydney Chao said, “It is disrespectful to the people celebrating the holiday. The whole point of a holiday is to take time off to celebrate, not to move that day’s schedule to sometime else.” 

It is disrespectful to the people celebrating the holiday. The whole point of a holiday is to take time off to celebrate, not to move that day’s schedule to sometime else.

— Sydney Chao '23

Students and teachers also feel that a break in the middle of the week is crucial. 9th grade English teacher Ms. Jessica Hatlen emphasized, “It is challenging for students and staff to have four days in a row of synchronous learning. The Wednesday break … has benefits for students who need a reprieve from all the screen time and for staff who need to work on planning … and completing important paperwork.” 

Despite the discontent surrounding the revised school schedule, after-school study support has received nothing but positive feedback. Many students said that they enjoy having a smaller student-to-teacher ratio when going through the content that they are confused about. Moreover, teachers use their 30 minutes of study support to check on students, review class material, and tackle any questions that are brought up. 

Members of the community suggested that the school must ask for evaluation and incorporate their constructive criticism into a new and improved schedule. Mr. Gupta says, “As we learn from the schedule’s implementation, we need to revisit its efficacy and make … adjustments [to the] schedule as we learn in this new environment of online education.”