Bell schedule — hell schedule?

April, 2024
Tessa SilverChloe Zhao

At the beginning of class, you may feel energized. But as it drags on, you begin to feel more and more restless. It feels like an eternity has gone by, even though you still have an hour left in the class. When the bell finally rings, you feel cheated — the time that you spent sitting bored at your desk could have been spent on something much more productive, but instead you’re left with little energy to make it through the rest of the day.

This bleak situation is becoming a reality for PHS students. Last month, a new bell schedule for PHS’s 2024–2025 school year was released by the PPS Board of Education. This new schedule features five letter days, each corresponding to a weekday, and separates science and P.E. classes to make assigning classes more flexible. Additionally, 90-minute block classes on “B2” and “B3” days were added on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, both without Tiger Time. 45 minutes of gym classes on B2 and B3 days are used for learning labs for freshmen, or a free period for upperclassmen and sophomores who are clear of disciplinary actions and have good attendance in their second semester.

As the school board pointed out, our current schedule has several major issues. First of all, letter days occur in an inconsistent, confusing pattern, which makes it harder for students to get settled into a comfortable rhythm. This lack of consistency in the letter day rotation makes some days occur more often than others, leaving some students with less frequent gym free periods. Second of all, the current schedule binds science and gym classes together for lab periods, which creates a lot of trouble when creating student schedules. As a result, there are also inconsistencies in class sizes, and this also prevents students from receiving the courses they requested.

However, even if the new schedule attempts to fix some of these problems, it also brings up new ones. For one, the two massive block days are a major point of concern. These block days were added for the purpose of maximizing student productivity and to consistently give teachers more time for project-based learning, such as science labs. Nevertheless, longer block periods may have the opposite effect on student productivity. Attention spans vary depending on the student, but there is a general range for optimal focus. According to a Gitnux report from 2024, this span is 30 to 40 minutes for 13 to 15 year olds. Meanwhile, teenagers who are 16 and older are reportedly able to concentrate for 32 to 50 minutes on average. Our current block periods, which last around 78 minutes, are already overstepping student attention spans. Having periods as long as 90 minutes would exacerbate this problem and leave many students even more drained, unfocused, and feeling trapped in their classes.

Additionally, these blocks come at the expense of having two days of Tiger Time. With the new schedule, there is only one hour allocated to Tiger Time on a single day (Tiger Thursdays). Compared to our current 48 minute-long Tiger Time periods across two days, students have fewer opportunities overall to make up work, complete assignments, and receive extra help from their teachers during office hours. Both clubs and sports will also have much less scheduling flexibility. Clubs will either have to lose chunks of their membership every other week when freshmen have Peer Group, or move their meeting times to lunch, which would decrease meeting length and possibly conflict with other clubs.

In the future, administrators should take the opinions of the general student body into deeper consideration. This is especially the case with projects that directly impact our everyday routines, such as creating a new bell schedule. Even though some members of the student council were consulted, they are by no means entirely representative of all PHS students. A student poll would have much better reflected the needs of the average student. The fact that the administration didn’t take these opinions into consideration shows a disconnect between PHS’s student body and administrators. Ultimately, we should learn from these divisions and work towards building a more connected and equitable community.