Hayes returns to nine period schedule

Amanda Stevens, Staff Writer

For the 2021-2022 school year, Hayes is returning to a nine period schedule as all of its students return to the classroom.
Last year’s schedule included only seven periods, each lasting 50 minutes to accommodate hybrid learning. This year’s schedule has eight 45-minute periods as well as a 25-minute House period at the end of the day.
According to principal Ric Stranges, the school had several priorities when it came to designing the schedule, such as the addition of an eighth academic period, an extra lunch period, and the re-inclusion of House.
“[The eighth academic period] helps students get more class in,” Stranges said. “Teachers still teach five, so that didn’t change, but we wanted to add an extra period because there were times during Covid that [students] maybe didn’t get to take everything they wanted.”
Junior Savannah Dunn said that eight periods feels longer, but she likes having more opportunities to take classes.
“There definitely weren’t as many electives [last year],” Dunn said. “Outside of core classes, electives are my favorite just because you can kind of choose them. I think it’s nicer having more [class periods] this year.”
Other students like Junior Megan Wallace appreciate how the new schedule provides more opportunities for a break during the day. She said she took several classes last year and didn’t get a lunch period as a result.
“I did really bad last year,” Wallace said. “My mental health was low. I wasn’t getting the lunch I needed until the last half of the year when my math teacher let me eat in his room. I think [this year] is a lot better. I feel more relaxed because I get a lunch period and a House period to just chill with friends.”
With Covid-19 still prevalent and over 1800 students in the building, more lunch periods were also necessary additions to the bell schedule in order to maintain social distancing while also encouraging social interaction.
During hybrid learning, there were three lunch periods. For safety purposes, every student needed to eat at their own table or desk.
Now, with four lunch periods, Stranges said the school is able to help students stay socially distant, but not isolated.
“Last year, everybody ate in solitary confinement. We all had our own table or had our own [desk], and we found it to be orderly, but not conducive to socialization,” Stranges said. “We [have] about three [students] per table this year, rather than about seven when we only had two lunches, so it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic within the cafeteria as it did pre-Covid.”
Because there were only two lunch periods before Covid-19, half of the school ate together and the cafeterias were crowded.
Dunn said she likes having the extra lunch periods, but she also said there’s a downside.
“I actually kind of like [the lunch periods] because not everyone is squished together, but it does suck because a lot of people are in different lunches,” Dunn said.
Although the change to lunch periods helped create more space in the cafeterias, it also pushed the school to change when House takes place.
According to Stranges, House was prioritized this year so that students could begin reconnecting with one another and with teachers, but with four lunch periods, House needed to be moved to a different time.
“Half the school used to go to House, and half the school went to lunch. Now…with four lunches, you can’t do it,” Stranges said. “We wanted to either put it at the beginning of the day, or at the end of the day, and we thought at the end of the day, we could do more activities and…[it] would provide more opportunities for students.”
Wallace said she preferred having lunch and House together, but doesn’t mind having House at the end of the day either.
“Hopefully we get to do House Games,” Wallace said. “I’m just excited for House because I’m a House leader this year for Fulton Creek.”
While there were several major adjustments to the bell schedule, there were also elements from last year that were not changed.
According to Stranges, last year was a lesson in what works and doesn’t work for Hayes students.
Similarly to last year, students still have around five minutes in between classes, but arrows designating hallways as one-way have been removed.
Although the hallways are more congested, students like Dunn prefer not having so many limits in the halls.
“I feel like the halls are definitely a bit small, but I feel like with the arrows before, everyone would have to go one way [and] there was less traffic but it was kind of inconvenient,” Dunn said. “Your class could be all the way on the other side and you can’t take the shortcut, you have to go down a certain hallway.”
Even though students now have more choice in how they navigate the hallways, up and down arrows on the stairs remain.
“We learned that’s not a bad way for us to go up and down the stairs,” Stranges said. “Stairways are pretty narrow and it provides, probably, a safer route around to navigate the building that way, so we’ll keep those, I think, forever, because it’s just easier to get around.”
Overall, the most significant difference between last year and this year is the return to in-person learning five days a week. Students all have different preferences when it comes to hybrid classes or all in-person classes, however, Stranges said he’s happy to have everyone back.
“I couldn’t be more pleased that we’re here five days, that we have a fairly normal schedule in a fairly abnormal time,” Stranges said.
Despite the changing landscape of the pandemic, Stranges said he’s confident the students and staff will continue to do the right thing as the school year progresses.
“It’s the students and staff at Hayes that make it the place that we are,” Stranges said. “It’s a great place, we have a lot to build on, we have a lot to improve, but I think to start the year with a late notice on masks, I think…everybody has done a great job adhering to the Board policy and making it work for everybody. I miss faces, I miss smiles, but I think we’ll get to that point, and I think we’re going to get there because people are wearing their masks.”