The Walpole High School (WHS) Teachers Union voted to approve the regular class schedule change and therefore their contract on April 26. Superintendent Lincoln Lynch and the Walpole School Committee presented the following schedule change to the union: a 6×8 model, comprised of six periods per day, each 56 minutes long, and eight days per cycle, similar to that of middle school. Despite the addition of an entire class period, the official start and end times will remain the same.
One of the main reasons for changing the schedule is the school’s adherence to state’s requirement that all students must take physical education (PE). Prior to requirement change, students were only required to take one semester of PE and one semester of health during their four years of high school. This past school year was the first to require freshmen to take PE all four years. With next year’s freshmen and sophomores taking PE as Walpole High continues to phase in the new course requirement, the additional class period will allow them more flexibility to fulfill their other graduation requirements.
“Our students need to actively be in PE, but most of them haven’t since freshman year, we’ve added so many other courses, and if we now tell them all they have to take PE, we are now eliminating the options that the kids have in their 6th and 7th periods,” School Counseling Department Head Jennifer Dolan said. “In order to keep everything intact and fit in PE came the 8th period.”
“Taking PE all four years will keep everyone more active. Also, the eighth period will hopefully help me see more of what the high school has to offer other than my elective classes,” freshman Shannon Jordan said.
As for the rising juniors and seniors who were not required to take additional years of physical education, they will be put in a year-long study hall.
“We don’t want next year’s upperclassmen to be taking extra classes. We think that having time available in the school day to get work done and access the support of teachers will be beneficial not only to students’ academics but their overall mental health,” Dolan said.
The year-long study hall period for the classes of 2020 and 2019, however, is not mandatory. If a student wants to waive out of their study hall, they must write a letter to Principal Stephen Imbusch expressing their circumstances. The committee of counselors and Imbusch will review each request and make a decision for each individual case.
“We know that kids are overextended in so many ways, we hope with the eighth period to have interventions, homework clubs, math lab or a writing lab that typically take place after school,” Dolan said.
Due to the changing class period times for next school year, there will also be no more Professional Learning Communities (PLC) on Tuesday afternoons. The guidance department is hoping to broaden the uses for the students’ year-long study halls by potentially using those periods to educate students on the required guidance curriculum that has previously taken place during PLC. The access to homework club and academic labs for extra help will also be another use for students’ study periods.
“Kids have sports after school and are traveling to their games and practices; kids work after school; some kids have other priorities after school. The new study hall will help everyone feel a little less stressed and help us all manage our time better,” said junior
WHS Science Teacher and Executive President of the Walpole Teachers Association, Daniel Mullaney identifies the need for flexibility regarding the change.
“When you change something, you have to regulate it like a science experiment and see what needs to be fixed and make adjustments. We don’t really know how the new schedule will operate until we try it,” Mullaney said.