Currently, at Forest Hills Eastern, students attend six periods throughout their school day. Each class lasts between fifty minutes to an hour with a thirty-minute lunch in the middle of the day. However, this schedule may not be the optimal choice. Students find it difficult to take elective courses and focus on their career path. Eastern High School should switch to a seven-hour day.
Many underclassmen struggle to fit classes into their schedule. Along with taking music or art class, the average freshman student takes Algebra 1, English 9, Economics and Civics, Foreign Language, and Biology. Many students fill their sixth slot with a music or art course – those who don’t wish to give up their talent for another elective option have completely full schedules. The same can be said for sophomores. United States History, English 10, Geometry, Science, Foreign Language, and a Music/art class maxes out a student’s schedule. Junior year is where one’s hours finally start to open up. There is no required science or language in the third year of high school (yet, many colleges still recommend these courses). For those following these college guidelines, the extra two hours are still filled with the core curriculum. Others, however, may be able to branch out and take new courses with this extension of freedom.
Studies across the board like one done by the Harvard Graduate School of Education show that shorter, more frequent classes lead to less boredom, more focus, and less stress for students. The extra hour in the day would also give students more opportunities to take career-focused classes, electives, and additional core classes.
Students and staff also feel pressure over the number of students in each class. FHE classes can have up to thirty students, while some classes have even more. Larger classes lead to more work for teachers, more distractions for the students, and an overall lack of focus.
Ms. Kohlhaas, a Spanish teacher at Forest Hills Eastern in her 17th year of teaching, likes the idea of a seven-hour day; it is what she had at her own high school, Catholic Central. “It could give kids a break,” she said. The Spanish department itself is known for having large class sizes, putting a heavy load on the foreign language teachers. She also believes in providing students with either a study hall, or more elective classes. “If Northern and Central have [a class], so should we,” she continued. Sports Management, Robotics, Culinary Arts, AP Seminar, and History of Thought are just a few examples of classes not provided at Eastern.
Why then don’t we have a seven-hour day? Many point to the idea that the administration thinks it would be too costly to run a seven-hour day due to increased staffing numbers. Eastern, however, has already failed to fill the vacant positions of former staff members such as Ms. Keeley, Ms. Torres, Ms. Hamersma, Ms. Fitzgerald, and Ms. McCarthy who have left in the past three years. The only teachers hired within the past three years are Mr. Wysocki, Mr. Schwander, and Mr. Visser – social studies, science, and math – filling in for Mr. Wierenga, Ms. Brown, and Ms. Hartman respectively. Furthermore, the number of counselors at FHE have also decreased; Ms. Harvey was replaced by Mr. Blink, but Ms. Arsulowicz’s former position was never filled.
Eastern Principal Ms. Pallo has chosen not to take a side in this ongoing debate. “I am not for or against it. I simply want the schedule that best meets the needs and interests of our students.” She continues, “the seven-period schedule is an excellent way to allow students to have more choice when selecting classes, but it does reduce class time, which makes meeting standards challenging.” She also said that now is not the right time for us to transition to a new schedule. “As far as adapting this schedule, I have honestly not been a part of FHE long enough to know the history of daily schedule exploration. I wanted to go through our scheduling process, as is before I looked at any options, and this is the first year I have been able to do that.”
It is up to the administration to further explore the needs of Eastern students and accommodate them accordingly. As the number of students and academics grows in Forest Hills, it is important to give proper accommodations to the students. Increasing the number of periods in our days is a necessity for staff members and students alike. Expanding options for electives, decreasing the number of students in a class, and shortening class times will benefit all who work at and attend Eastern High School.