In response to studies showing that student attention span is decreasing and concerns that students will not graduate with enough credits, Principal Sonia Weatherfield of West Valley High School has announced that class periods are now reduced from their previous 50 minutes to nine and a half minutes.
“These changes will allow West Valley scholars to be exposed to a larger variety of course options and to thrive in an environment where they will never be in risk of zoning out or getting bored,” Weatherfield said. “Instead of seven periods a day with very little room for electives and a huge chance of falling asleep in class, students are now taking 26 classes across a huge range of topics. With classes this short, there’s no chance they’ll lose valuable instruction time by sleeping.”
In West Valley’s previous 8:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. schedule, students had a 35-minute lunch break and five-minute passing periods between each class. The adjusted schedule retains the five-minute passing period but has shortened lunch to 33 minutes.
Although teacher and student reactions vary, most are excited about the new changes.
“When I got my original schedule I was upset because I couldn’t take both AP Psych and Ceramics,” junior Brian Gutierrez said. “This year, I don’t have to worry about missing out because I can take all of those, plus classes we didn’t even have last year like College Finances, East Asian Literature, and Health Issues of the Sixteenth Century.”
“I like that I don’t have to worry about being bored in class,” freshman Mandy Johnson said. “I think the teachers are more interesting when we don’t have to listen to them as long. I hated having Mr. Brown as a teacher for double-period Social Studies, but it’s so much easier to deal with him now that I have him for Titanic Studies, which is a class where we gradually watch the movie ‘Titanic’ over the course of the entire semester.”
Tony Goldstein, an English teacher, expressed enthusiasm for his new course load, which includes classes such as Literature from June of 1895, What are Conjunctions?, Harry Potter: A Study of Argus Filch, and Words Starting with X.
“It keeps me on my toes,” he said. “I’ve found that the shortened class period allows me to incorporate technology in new ways. For example, whenever I have an essay exam, I just have the students text me whatever set of emojis they think best support their argument. It makes the class so much more engaging and relevant!”
Although West Valley teachers are now faced with the task of developing curriculum for up to 14 new courses each, most are thrilled at the prospect of expanding their area of focus.
“Last year, music class was only offered as a single general elective,” said music teacher Barry Lin. “This year I have four levels of orchestra, five levels of choir, an a cappella group, three wind ensembles, a music theory class, and jazz band. I’m so excited to watch the students blossom as musicians once we get to the point where they are able to take out and put away their instruments in the time given.”
First-year social studies teacher Ashleigh Marcus said, “I love that I’m able to work with so many more students this way. Before the new schedule rolled out, I only got to see about 150 students every day. Now I see around 500. That’s so many more young lives I’m able to have a lasting effect on.” At press time, Marcus was seen requesting for a third time that her 19th period class please re-enter the classroom properly so they could move on to their exit routine.
While West Valley’s methods may be unconventional, Weatherfield is confident they will prove effective. However, she has a few recommendations for teachers and students alike.
“Since napping students are no longer a concern, I look forward to observing classes in which every student participates,” Weatherfield said. “Reaching 100% engagement in the classroom will be one of many signs that West Valley scholars are prepared for this year’s state exams in math and English.
“As always, each state test will take 3.5 hours and must be completed in one sitting,” Weatherfield reminded students.