7-hour day illogical

Kris Long, Sports Editor

The traditional American high school has always been somewhat the same: a seven-or eight-hour day, starting around 8 a.m. and ending around 3 p.m. It’s not often this system is questioned, despite its numerous impracticalities. 

A seven-hour structured day doesn’t make the best use of student’s or teacher’s time and doesn’t emulate the real-world environment for which students are headed. As COVID-19 forces American schools to rethink education, it’s time to consider some long-overdue alterations to high school pedagogy. 

It would be beneficial to students and teachers to run high school more like college, with teachers scheduling their class times around what works best for their subject. Some high school structure could continue for subjects like math and music that benefit from everyday instruction, but others could move to two or three days a week for longer periods of time. It would be a massive change, but it’s doable.

The current (or the typical schedule before COVID that we will assumably return to) schedule doesn’t make sense for all classes. Block days aren’t always usable in foreign language and math as an hour and a half of practice exceeds student’s attention spans. 

Conversely, for project-based subjects like welding and ceramics, activities are difficult to fit into the seven-period short class times. For English classes, most of the material is better done individually at one’s own pace. Instead, students often spend time in class reading and writing, which leaves some rushed and others bored, rather than doing that at home and then coming into class for discussions and lectures. This rigid schedule leads to wasted time — a commodity many of high school age run short on. 

Manhattan High has the means to run itself like a community college. The school already holds many of these features: we essentially have a technical school, college-level academics, standard high school level classes and an extensive fine arts department all under our roof. With all these resources, it wouldn’t be hard to design a college-like schedule, meaning different classes on different days and not necessarily back-to-back, while keeping class times within school hours to provide for busing. 

With a college-like schedule, students would be more likely to have downtime between classes, giving them time to recharge before their next lesson. MHS has put money into beautiful common areas, courtyards and a library that students barely get to use while in class the entire day. Time between classes could be spent in common areas and used as study halls, lunch breaks, or time to socialize. If students have their own transportation, there’s no need for them to be in the building for an exhausting seven-hour day. 

Critics may claim high school students aren’t ready for this kind of flexibility, but we have to learn it somehow. Currently, students leave the high school environment where they are constantly supervised, their days structured, and then they are thrown into the more flexible college or workforce environment. Many aren’t prepared. 

Running high school more like a community college could be a gradual step up. Students who have trouble managing their time could be assigned to study halls between classes, which helps them build that skill. Attendance could still be monitored, and students who struggled could be offered help, rather than having teachers patrol the hallways like we’re in a minimum-security prison. 

MHS already runs on a credit system. So, the 24-credit requirement could continue with students taking a different number of classes per year. The most ambitious could graduate as juniors without having to take online summer courses, or simply take more classes in high school to acquire more knowledge before graduation. Those who struggle could take fewer classes at a time. 

I’m not sure who thought the current schedule was a good idea. I suspect they had their reasons, but times have changed since then. A more flexible schedule would make better use of time and prepare students for our futures in the modern world if people are willing to make such a sweeping change.