Friday, March 1 marks the last day for students to change their schedules for the 2019-20 school year, Director of Counseling Betsy Jones said.
Course request forms were due Jan. 25 for rising seniors and Feb. 1 for rising sophomores and juniors, but the March 1 deadline allows students to make alterations to their original forms.
“[The March 1 deadline is in place] because we have to decide how many teachers we need, request [full-time-employees] and hire teachers,” Jones said. “So, if students make changes after all those decisions are made, then we can’t offer the courses that the students want.”
For the upcoming school year, Jones said an increase in student population will affect the flexibility of scheduling. Currently, there are 1,933 students matched with 112 full-time teachers (FTE) and 11 part-time faculty members. Jones said student enrollment will increase 100 students, which equates to one FTE; however, RBHS does not plan to hire any additional teachers. Because of that increase, Jones said the counseling department must hold kids tight to their initial choices.
As a rising senior, junior Anya Kumar worried more than in the past about picking classes this school year. Though she understands why the counselors need a deadline, she felt the time frame was too constraining.
“Being able to change classes whenever would be helpful because you don’t really know what a class is going to be like until after the first unit test,” Kumar said. “Having to have a finalized schedule by March 1 means you just kind of have to hope that you made the right choices.”
While Jones sympathizes with students stressed by scheduling, to ensure there is enough time to complete the master schedule, she said a strict and early deadline is necessary.
These decisions, which are made from March 1 to the end of the year, involve the department chairs and RBHS principal Dr. Jennifer Rukstad. After obtaining the number of course requests, it is the responsibility of each department head to determine the number of classes offered, class sizes and caps, classrooms and which blocks these classes take place. Dr. Rukstad provides parameters for the department heads. For example, one parameter Dr. Rukstad sets is common planning time where teachers must align a block to collaborate with other teachers of the same subject.
“So the department chairs work together on their singletons and doubletons to try and spread them out and not schedule them [overlapping],” Jones said.
After the department chairs complete an excel spreadsheet including the scheduling information, Jones converts it into another more detailed master schedule that considers each student in preparation of the fall.
“Typically, I have a completed excel master schedule by the time everyone leaves for the end of the school year, and then it gives me the end of the school year to the end of summer to get it built,” Jones said. “We run students through the scheduler, [and then] we go back and clean up conflicts.”
Because the process to plan for the next school year involves so many moving parts, Jones said they cannot deal with the added variable of students switching classes. Additionally, next year’s projected increase in student population brings the concern of teacher shortage.
“Next year we’re going to be bigger than ever, so I do have sophomores who are very upset because we’re mandating that they have an [Alternate Unassigned Time (AUT)],” Jones said. “They cannot have eight courses because we have to guarantee seven courses for every student, and we just can’t guarantee that [if] kids are going to be able to take eight full blocks.”
Senior Jessica Krekeler did not have an AUT her sophomore year and, instead, opted to fill her schedule with science classes like Honors Biology and Honors Chemistry to take AP Biology her junior year. Being able to load all eight blocks with classes let Krekeler take advantage of as many classes she could.
While Kumar sees the need for staff to plan for the next school year, she still believes students need more time to make selections. This year students received their class request forms Jan. 15. Rising seniors had fewer than three weeks to complete them.
“One thing that would make choosing classes a little easier is having teachers talk to students about their classes,” Kumar said. “Two of my science teachers did that, and it was really helpful because they were able to describe the content of classes and the difficulty of each one.”