Culver Academies students generally liked a schedule the school tried out in November that gave them a midday break so they could have more time to meet with teachers, have lunch with friends or do what they want.
“It's a good balance for me,” said Henry Booth ’24. “I get kind of tired going to back-to-back-to-back classes. A break halfway through helps me get through the day. I started working out at that time. I do cardio. Or I meet with my teachers.”
Dean of Faculty Josh Pretzer said that a survey indicated that most students like having open time in the middle of the day with set office hours for teachers.
“Ninety-seven percent of the students said they were able to get all the academic support that they needed, which was a big focus of this schedule,” Pretzer said.
He added that it’s the first time Culver has looked at its school schedule in two decades. The current schedule was created when students were just beginning to use laptops and before they had cell phones.
“Our needs are very different than they were in 2002. It was time to look at whether the schedule is meeting our needs,” Pretzer said. “The needs we’re most interested in reviewing are related to learning and well-being.”
He said school officials also are interested in giving students more command of their time.
Dan Davidge, chairman of the wellness education department, told students at an all-school meeting in November that Culver had committed to trying three different schedules to determine whether a change could help students get more rest.
The first trial schedule was held Nov. 6-16, shortening class periods by five minutes to 8o minutes, and giving students a period from 11:20 a.m. to 1 p.m. for students to use the time as they saw fit. The open period gave students time to eat lunch, meet with teachers, hang out with friends, take a nap or do whatever else they wanted.
“It was the student’s choice of how they wanted to experience that time,” Pretzer said.
Teachers in each department were asked to be available to students at certain times. Under the current schedule, students can meet with teachers from 3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m., but students say that’s often not enough time or the right time of day.
Under the trial schedule classes ended at 3:50 p.m., instead of at 3:15 p.m., as they do now.
Students said in a survey that under the trial schedule they were alert and engaged for all their classes; that they had enough time to do their academic work; and that they were able to get the academic support they needed.
“Students indicated that they could pop in and meet with a teacher for 15 minutes here and 15 minutes here without feeling like they had to make an appointment,” Pretzer said.
Most students also said they had enough time for the clubs and student-led activities they are involved in, and they had enough time for their student life responsibilities. Many students said they liked the midday break.
“I think it's calming because you have your first two classes and then you have time to relax,” said Bosco Fox ’24. “You can nap. I use it as a very social time. I get to see my friends,” he said. “It’s a calming time in the middle of the day.”
They also indicated they had enough time for lunch, they had enough time to socialize with friends and that the schedule had the potential to improve their well-being.
Not everyone liked the trial schedule, though.
Annie Samis ’25 said she already has an open period every day.
“So sometimes it just kind of feels like too much time for me,” she said.
But Alex Conley ’24, who has four classes every day, said the extra time in the middle of the day was helpful.
“Especially as a senior, I need those breaks for college essays. I can’t get them done during CQ. So having this break, I get to talk to my teachers,” he said.
The survey indicated that half the students preferred the trial schedule over the current schedule, a quarter had no preference and a quarter preferred the current schedule, Pretzer said.
Students most frequently expressed concerns about two areas: that they didn’t have enough time to transition to sports and that ending classes at 3:50 p.m. made the day too long.
There are two more trial periods scheduled. Under the one in late February, the school day will start at 9 a.m., instead of the current 8:30 a.m. School officials are still working on the trial schedule that will be tested in April and will base it on feedback from students and faculty from the previous two trials.
Pretzer said the Academies has hired Independent School Management to work with school officials to look at the data collected from students and faculty after all the trial schedules to decide on the best schedule for next year.