The School Day is Too Long

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Meme by Isaac Silverman ’21

Sydney Eisenstein ’22

As most students know, in-person school and virtual classes are different experiences with varying circumstances. The current schedule for Monday-Thursday includes seven 40-minute classes a day, plus tefillah, lunch, and mincha. However, because we are learning in two completely different forms of school, the schedules should be different as well. 

Have you ever been sitting in class, trying to pay attention, yet your mind wanders? Staying engaged in class has always been difficult for some students, but now students sitting in class on 78th Street are nearly in their own worlds. Students sit six feet away from others while wearing masks. There is a disconnect in classrooms, and students must put in more effort to participate in lessons. Wearing masks puts students in their own heads more than ever before. In a room full of masked faces, it is more convenient to not contribute to class because the masks act as barriers against speaking. As a result of Covid-19 procedures, many students might eventually lose interest in their education, and their sense of curiosity in learning. Students are facing a new challenge in following Covid protocols, yet trying to remain active participants in school. 

The length of the in-person school day must be conducive to learning and focusing while wearing masks. The administration wants students to maximize their limited time in the school building and to engage in many live classes a day. However, maximizing students’ time in the school building may lead to ineffective learning and to students feeling drained. Students should not be expected to learn productively for nearly eight hours, while wearing face coverings. If students are obligated to keep their masks on at all times in school, then they should be in the building for less time. A solution would be to revise the schedule for in-person school days and cut out two classes at the end of the day, resulting in a school day that ends at 2:10 pm.

The current length of classes and of the school day are ideal for the virtual school system. The Zoom schedule last year had four hour-long classes a day. Many students can relate to my experience of staring at the boxes of my lackadaisical classmates on their computer screens for hour-long intervals. Although the administration had created hour-long classes because there were fewer periods daily and to make up for technical difficulties, it was extremely difficult to learn anything or stay focused during the last 20 minutes. Hour-long Zoom classes were tedious and drained classes of vibrancy. 

That said, this year’s schedule is preferable to last year’s Zoom schedule because it demands students’ focus for smaller intervals of time. Forty-minute classes give the day a fast pace and keeps students focused for each class. The length of classes are a good balance between having enough time to become situated in the class material, yet not boring students for too long. 

I am aware that, since students rotate on the days they are in the building, it may be difficult to have schedules that are not aligned for all students. However, it is extremely difficult to sit in a classroom, trying to hear a teacher standing far away and to participate in class discussions. By simply cutting out the last two periods for students who are learning in-person, students would be able to stay more engaged throughout the day and have a more positive experience transitioning back to in-person school.