In August of 2020, Novato High School decided to do semester-long classes for the 2020-2021 school year. When the students and staff heard about the change to a 4×4 schedule, many thought it would be easier. That plan will soon be scrapped as NHS will be returning to the previous seven-period pre-pandemic schedule for next school year.
Students thought that having a semester-long class and then being done would be appealing, with the chance to get more classes done in a year. However, some students started to realize how that wasn’t so appealing. The stress and fast-moving pace of the classes proved to be a hard adjustment for many students and staff. When Novato High had year-long courses in the past, if you missed a period or even a day, there was still work that needed to be made up. However, when switching to the 4×4 schedule, missing a period has often meant missing a whole lesson, which likely added to some stress for students and teachers.
Zoe Campana, a junior at Novato High, commented about the stress levels in the 4×4 class schedule.
“I am definitely at least as stressed out as the old schedule if not more because I feel like I am being overloaded with schoolwork and that I don’t have enough time to learn it well,” Campana said.
While some students are more stressed out due to having less time to complete work and assignments,, many students don’t feel as if they are learning all that they need to know throughout the semester. This can lead to significant knowledge gaps.
Some teachers have also been challenged with the new 4×4 schedule. Having to transition from year-long classes to only a semester has taken its toll.
Kalia Budwell, a Math teacher at Novato High, reflected on the 4×4 schedule.
“As for myself as a teacher, it wouldn’t be easier. Even though I’d have fewer students, now I’d be grading a unit test far more frequently, probably every two weeks,” Budwell said. “Students would actually be at a disadvantage with this rapid approach, especially those who lack organizational skills and executive functioning skills. Students who would benefit from relearning and retaking would not get to do so. Statistically, I would predict that about 40% of students would end up needing to repeat Algebra 1.”
Budwell also described the challenge of keeping a student attentive for 90 minutes.
“You would think that you would get more teaching time with the 4×4 schedule; however, many of those minutes are unusable as students lose attention,” she added.
However, some students feel that the 4×4 schedule works well for them. Ella Speckhart, a junior at Novato High School, loves the 4×4 schedule.
“I would love to stay in the 4×4 even though I know that isn’t happening. This year is the first year of school where I was able to have a job and be able to make money at the same time while doing schoolwork,” she said. “Going back to the regular schedule means I’m going to have to quit my job in August. Probably find a new one that is less time consuming but makes less money. It also means that I will be more stressed than I was this past year with having to worry about more classes. Overall the 4×4 method worked so much better with my daily life than the previous regular schedule.”
With the 4×4 class schedule, students have more free time on their hands, allowing them to have more extracurricular activities or even get a job. Speckhart then says how her stress levels have decreased and how she feels that she is learning the exact amount that she would have been learning in a 7-period schedule, during the time that we have had a 4×4 schedule.
Stress levels connected to the class schedule seem to vary from teacher to teacher and student to student. There are multiple pros and cons for each side. As most students and staff started this semester thinking that the 4×4 schedule could be new and beneficial, the narrative quickly changed to it not being so helpful. For the most part, students and staff seem excited to go back to a seven-period schedule for the 2021-2022 school year.