New Bell Schedule Goes for Vote

Caitlin Barbour , Editor-in-Chief

     Throughout the year, various discussions have been held on making changes to the current bell schedule for the upcoming 2019 – 2020 school year. From seven new proposals, MHS teachers narrowed the possibilities down to one, named Cherry, which follows a three meetings per week schedule with longer class periods. On Feb. 26, teachers were presented with student and parent opinions that had been collected, before entering into a final closed door discussion. The voting for implementing Cherry ran until March 8, in which a two-thirds majority vote is required for the new schedule to become a proposal for the school community council.

    “If you look at the country and you look at schools with bell schedules of four or five meetings a week it’s about half of the high schools in the country, and if you look at bell schedules with three or less meetings a week that’s the other half. There are successful high schools on both sides of the fence so to me this really comes down to what is it that the teachers and the students want,” said Principal Fred Murphy.

    Seven years ago, MHS followed a six period bell schedule until the state of Hawai’i changed their policy, requiring schools to offer a seventh period. After several iterations and modifications were made in the following three years, the current bell schedule was decided upon, making it in its fourth year of implementation. “Two years ago we found out that the state’s mandate wasn’t as firm as we had been told. So we basically learned that we could, if we wanted to, we could’ve gone back to our original bell schedule. There was a few vocal members on our faculty that wanted to do that so we started with a conversation of, ‘Do we want to go back to having a six period bell schedule?’” said Murphy. “Well that was soundly defeated. There were really less than a dozen teachers that wanted to do that out of a faculty of nearly 150.”

    To avoid forcing students into having to take a class online or afterschool if they wanted that seventh period, it was decided to maintain the seven period schedule. If students wished to lighten their academic load, seniors are able to take a half day with proof of employment and underclassmen are able to take a study hall. “Then the question was do we meet four times a week or three times a week. There didn’t seem to be any momentum for meeting two times a week or five times a week so we said to people (to) put together a proposal; no one put together a new four meetings per week bell schedule — we just had a bunch of iterations of three meetings per week. So we went through a few months of putting it up to the teachers and saying, ‘Hey we got seven, let’s bring it down to four, let’s bring it down to two, let’s bring it down to one,’ and that’s what we did,” said Murphy.

    To give the teachers more information to consider, students and parents were asked their opinions on the possible change. Besides being discussed within the student senate, a survey was sent out in January to the entire school in which 325 out of approximately 2,600 students at MHS responded. There was also a parent meeting held on Feb. 7 for a round table discussion in which 11 parents attended. “I like the idea of the Cherry schedule because we see less classes in a day, meaning less homework to do in a night. It’s hard to balance homework for six classes as well as keep up with extracurriculars with this current schedule; with the new schedule I’d have less work to do in a night,” said Sophomore Kara Eto. Psychology teacher Douglas Muraoka added, “Most of the comments were against changing the bell schedule because they thought that repetition was better for all the students rather than a change. They worried about the focus of students — students being able to maintain focus for longer periods. They were worried about work piling up, (like) what happens if you miss the                  longer periods.”

    Various pros and cons were brought up through these discussions; many people pointed out that they liked not having to worry about so much each day, but in contrast, the new schedule requires students to focus for a longer period of time and students can easily fall behind if they procrastinate. Because the schedule is designed to only see each class three times a week there was a concern that the longer class periods would not be able to make up for the consistency that the current bell schedule provides with four meetings per week. “On the one hand I do like having longer classes because I have taught at schools before that had longer classes and having more time let’s us not have to rush so much to get through everything in one day. But I don’t like only seeing people three times a week. And so while I see the advantages of it, if I had to choose our current bell schedule or the new bell schedule, I think I would opt to stay with our current one, primarily because we have fewer classroom minutes in our new schedule and we also don’t see our classes as often during the week. So the trade off isn’t worth it; it could potentially be worth it but right now the one we’re choosing between doesn’t allow us to do that,” said math teacher   Patrick Riehle.

    One of the most mentioned pros to the proposed bell schedule is the longer study hall period. In the bell schedule used now, study hall is 23 minutes long, running from immediately after school to 3:00 p.m. Extracurricular activities including clubs, sports and after school classes are normally scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m., often giving students involved little time to utilize the study hall period. However, in the Cherry bell schedule, study hall ranges from 24 to 32 minutes in length depending on the day. “I have kids who I know need one-on-one help and I noticed that right now sometimes I have kids, I have students that’ll come in, but I’m helping another student. And so by the time I can finish with them, there’s only like two minutes left in study hall and that student has something to go to afterwards and so they just leave because I haven’t been able to help everybody that came in to ask for help. So I feel like a little longer study hall period would give me as a teacher, the time to help those students that are coming in and I can’t get to them right now because I don’t have enough time,” said math teacher Sarah Miranda.

    Regardless if the new proposal passes, the conversation on how to improve the bell schedule is not finished. “Let’s say we go to three meetings a week, that’s going to need for us to kinda talk a little bit about what we are going to do with longer periods to ensure we’re teaching bell to bell and we’re not wasting that extra time. If we continue with four meetings a week, that’s a lot of short meetings and we’re used to it but we can still improve with our delivery of instruction and utilization of time each week. So either way I think the next conversation with us is going to be about, “Ok we’re a great school, how do we get even better and what do we do to improve curriculum and instruction here at Mililani High School?’” said Murphy.

    Within the voting period, two-thirds of the teachers need to vote yes for the Cherry schedule; any abstentions count as a no vote. If the schedule is approved by the council it will be put into practice next year.