Bell schedule modifications cause uncertainty among student body

Aimee Liu | The Chronicle

While each school year contains many of the same practices at Mason High School (MHS), the bell schedule has always remained an inconsistency.

The 2021-22 bell schedule at MHS consists of shorter seven-bell days on Mondays and Fridays along with a medley of different block scheduled days the rest of the week, featuring five different bells each day. Eventually the time spent in each class per week balances out, but students are still forced to navigate a complex maze of different classes.

The schedule also includes Connect Time as one of the blocks on Wednesdays. Connect Time was originally introduced in the 2019-2020 school year as a unique 70-minute supplementary period that allowed students to choose an activity session of their choice. Teachers were encouraged to provide a variety of sessions that allowed students to get involved with their passions, receive intervention or simply decompress.

Sophomore Kennedy McVey had a difficult time processing this year’s new bell schedule after getting accustomed to the A and B block days last year. Coming back to the 2021-22 school year, McVey said she assumed that students would be following a schedule similar to last year.

“I got confused with the schedule because I [thought] we were doing A and B [days],” McVey said. “They changed the schedule and when they released [the new] one, it was confusing.”

While freshmen entering MHS have never experienced a “typical” high school schedule, they still had major adjustments to make. Freshman Jackson McKinney was not used to the concept of schedules with daily changes or long block classes. During his eighth grade year at Mason Middle School, he had every bell every single day.

“It was confusing trying to find everything since it changed every day,” McKinney said. “The first few weeks, freshmen needed help getting into the rhythm of where their classes [were] and how to find everything. I have gotten used to it though. The [printed] schedules in teachers’ classrooms and the student calendar do help.”

These resources that staff members created to help students were not exclusively designed for underclassmen. Many returning MHS students were also initially overwhelmed by the major schedule change this year. For senior Seiya Sachdeva, who already had experience with several different schedules over several different years, adjusting still took some time.

“It definitely is confusing with the changes throughout the day and the week,” Sachdeva said. “It’s a huge adjustment to try to memorize this new schedule. I’ll be walking through the hallways and hear people asking people they don’t even know what class we’re going to. I understand that the school [crafts the schedule] in a certain way, but it definitely feels like a random assortment.”

MHS teachers also found the transition to a new schedule challenging. English II and IV teacher Thurman Allen has experienced many bell schedules throughout his eighteen years at Mason, but still needed time to adjust to the daily changes in this year’s bell schedule.

“[The schedule] keeps things interesting, but it is hard to find a rhythm,” Allen said. “Last year I got used to the very relaxed rhythm of being able to do things. [This year] it feels like I’m shifting gears every day because [the schedule] changes all the time.”

Although Allen also experienced issues with the A/B block schedule, primarily in his lack of plan bells during half of the week, overall he liked the schedule. The reality of having only four classes a day was relaxing because he had less classes to teach every day.

“Psychologically, I think having four classes a day as opposed to seven made it feel less exhausting,” Allen said. “I realized the benefits of having that amount of time and the more relaxed pace it seemed to afford students.”

Senior Aryan Tadwalkar shared a similar positive sentiment on last year’s schedule. Having embraced many different schedules throughout his high school career, Tadwalkar’s favorite was last year’s A/B block schedule.

“I know the length of each class was long but having [fewer] classes a day made it feel super quick,” Tadwalkar said. “Teachers would still assign the same [amount of] homework, so it felt spaced out even more. You would have the chance to get a lot done in class.”

This idea of embracing any and all challenges has been beneficial for students, whether through navigating a high school bell schedule or the real world. While mixed feelings about the schedule remain, many students, including Sachdeva, have come to accept and appreciate the adaptations they must learn to make, finding some sense of familiarity in the unfamiliar.

“Having a different bell schedule for four years has made me more open-minded about changes,” Sachdeva said. “Having no consistency is something I’ve actually gotten used to now and, as a school, we already have that mindset of being flexible. It’s almost ironic that because of the inconsistency, I’ve actually gained more comfort in adapting to changes.”

Despite having differing opinions on each of the bell schedules he has experienced, Tadwalkar sees a silver lining in the complexity of Mason’s ever-changing bell schedules. Like other seniors, Tadwalkar shifted to seeing the inconsistencies of his high school schedules as a great introduction to the unpredictability of his future. He said that he hopes that the time managing skills he gained throughout high school will be useful in later experiences.

“I think having a different schedule for each day here at Mason is pretty applicable to what [I’m] going to see in college,” Tadwalkar said. “It has definitely helped prepare me for college where you pick your own classes and your schedule is more open. I’ve gotten used to the [schedule] changes and it’s definitely made my high school career at Mason memorable. Having a new schedule each year gives me a chance to reflect on each year in a different way.”

Illustration by Allison Droege