Almost half of students ask for schedule changes

By Jessica Barzilay

Before any other students had seen their schedules, Gabe Benjamin ’11 knew his was a problem. Benjamin’s dean, Cahn Oxelson, notified him that due to an irreconcilable conflict, he would have to adjust his course load. Benjamin’s situation was unusual, because the issue could not be resolved, but the resulting adjustment to his schedule was far from unusual. Half the students in the upper school have requested schedule changes.

Since the schedules were mailed out in late August, an estimated 50 percent of students have requested changes in some capacity, Upper School Dean Beth Slattery said.

In her experience, seniors call for the most adjustments, followed by juniors, then sophomores, but the reasons for the majority are fairly standard: appeals for lunch breaks or certain frees.

“Asking for a ‘perfect schedule’ with classes exactly where you want them and requesting teachers in each subject is not reasonable,” Slattery said.

However, as in the case of Jason Mohr ’11, most students are successful in creating an improved schedule for the year.

When his schedule arrived at the end of summer vacation, Mohr reevaluated his decision to take six academic classes.

Dropping AP Art History, Mohr was able to rearrange his schedule in order to secure a block in the middle of the day.

“Before I was taking too many AP classes, but I am very happy with how it turned out, and now I have a dedicated lunch period,” he said.

In recent years, the deans have worked to create a uniform system of addressing appeals for modifications. Along with their schedule, the students receive a scheduling card in early August.

The deans work to honor reasonable requests that meet the Aug. 20 deadline, and those who turn in late requests have reduced odds of success.

“If students are judicious about what they ask for and meet the scheduling card deadline, they are very likely to get some version of what they asked for,” Slattery said.

Charlotte Gordon ’12, one of Slattery’s advisees, hadn’t given much consideration to her schedule when she received it in the mail over the summer.

It wasn’t until she attended class on her first day that she realized the sequence of her classes presented an issue.

“I know that in the morning, I’m usually a little more tired, so I wanted to switch first period English III Honors with third period normal Precalculus,” Gordon said.

With the help of her dean, Gordon was able to successfully switch her two courses while still keeping the same teachers.

“Ms. Slattery was extremely helpful in modifying my schedule this year and last year when I had a few adjustments too,” she said.

Although changes in the first week are more difficult for the deans to accommodate, the circumstances are different when difficulties arise that are not technical.

Many students recognize they have signed up for a course load that is too demanding or have enrolled in the wrong level, in which case they move down to a lower level or drop a class entirely.

Those who wish to remove a course from their schedule altogether must do so by Nov. 5, or if it is a semester long course, they are given until Sept. 28.

This year, Jasmine McAllister ’11, took advantage of the grace period to figure out how to best balance her course load.

After a little over a week of school, McAllister decided to substitute AP Statistics for her French Literature Honors class, a choice she said she does not regret at all.

The ability to switch classes after the first week of classes allowed McAllister to arrange for a workload that was more manageable, she said.

The input of faculty members is relatively limited, but teachers are usually allowed a say in which periods they prefer to teach.

Instructors are also consulted when class size becomes an issue.

“We try very hard to maintain class sizes and gender balance, so if a change would make a class too small or too large, we would not honor that request,” Slattery said.

In very few instances can a scheduling conflict not be settled, but such was the case with Benjamin’s predicament.

His AP Physics C and Video Art III classes both fell first period, making it necessary for him to drop one, since his course load did not allow for either class later in the day.

Working with Visual Arts Head Cheri Gaulke and Oxelson, he decided to remain enrolled in the science course and take the Video Art III sixth period as a directed study.

The school is still qualifying the particulars of this arrangement technically, so Benjamin does not yet know if he will receive credit for the course.

However, given the circumstances, Benjamin is satisfied with the results, he said.

Benjamin’s unlikely situation aside, Slattery said that the vast majority of requests are honored if students adhere to the school’s procedure.

“We work very hard to make sure that we accommodate reasonable scheduling requests. Just follow the process,” she said.