Second semester bell schedule easier for teachers

At the start of the school year, Loudoun schools operated on a bell schedule that only required students to connect online with their teachers for an hour. Students were allowed to disconnect from their laptop twenty minutes before their next class, this being called a learning lab. The goal was to offer students a screen break but also a chance to see teachers for extra help. The schedule also gave students longer lunch periods, with approximately 45 minutes for the entire school to eat at the same time. When the new bell schedule was imposed during the second quarter, learning lab was no more and both students and teacher lunches were shortened to 30 minutes, happening at assigned intervals with the goal of preparing students for the return to in-person learning. Some students disliked the idea and even created a petition, but how did teachers feel?

Kathryn Ives, an AP teacher who teaches at LCHS said, “The reality is that this year, screen time is the status quo. No matter they schedule, all of the assignments and assessments are on the computer, so getting away from the screen is impossible.”

Nicole Daniel, AP psychology teacher, said, “Personally, I am ambivalent about the change in the bell schedule. I understand why administration made the choice to do it: it’s important that the transition to in-person learning be as seamless as possible when it happens, it mirrors our traditional school day, and it makes sense to set a major change like this at the start of a new semester rather than in the middle of a marking period.”

During the first half of the school year. Classes ran shorter, and the last twenty minutes being “learning lab” where teachers could use this time to provide extra help, answer questions for students who needed it. Most teachers dismissed students at this time, this time was meant for students to complete missing work or take a screen break. But some teachers, especially AP teachers preparing for an end-of-year exam, experienced challenges with the shortened contact time.

“I am happy that Learning Lab is going away,” Daniel said. “Teachers need the flexibility to decide when to plan asynchronous work, rather than being forced to always put it at the end of the block. Learning Lab was a nightmare from a lesson planning perspective, and I (as well as many of my colleagues) felt that its existence was an overreach into what should always have been a decision made by professionals in the classroom,” said Daniel.

Ives said that once students came back to school it made perfect sense, “It is the normal rhythm of the day and teachers can certainly let students have non-screen time at their discretion.

Daniel also understood why students might have been upset, “Students resent the change to their established routines, the shortening of lunch, and what they perceive as an increase in class time. Learning Lab was always meant to be part of the class block, but I know that many students would log off of class and  go do something else during that time, so they see the change in schedule as an “extension.” And, I understand how difficult it is to maintain focus in front of a computer for so long every day. And I too will miss my 45-minute lunches.”

For Ives, the switch in lunch time was the most difficult obstacle. “I loved having the 45 minutes lunch break in the middle of the day. I have never liked having lunch so early in the day.”

Although the bell schedule was changed a while ago, Students have gotten used to this new bell schedule, it was a bit difficult and I can speak for most students, but the teachers tried to make it a smooth transition for us.