The Creation of Punahou’s New Academy Schedule

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For the 2020-2021 school year, Punahou changed their schedule to a modified block format that features a blend of semester courses and intensive five-week block courses. This change is due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has dramatically altered the lives of the Punahou community.

Through the modification of the block schedule format, administrators were able to combine block classes with the previous modular schedule. Now, for some courses, each semester has been broken up into three five to six week block terms. Each term students are able to have a maximum of two two-hour block classes, a morning and/or afternoon one. There are also the typical semester classes, which meet for two hours per cycle through all three terms.

“I think we did our very best in fourth quarter, and the modular schedule just didn’t hold up well in distance learning. So, we needed to build a schedule that was more nimble,” Dr. Sally Mingarelli, Academy Assistant Principal, explained. During Punahou’s 2020 Spring Break, the school announced its distance learning plan where each class would only meet once a cycle.

Over three weeks in the summer, the Academic Curriculum Leadership team considered four different possible models. Eventually they narrowed them down to two, presented them to faculty members, and asked for feedback about them. “So the first step was laying out what we needed the schedule to do. And our highest priorities were of course to keep students safe and then as much as possible to honor the choices that students had already made in terms of the courses that they wanted to take,” Ms. Anna Liem, Academy Academic Services Coordinator stated. “We wanted to build a schedule that was research-based best practice for online teaching and learning. And there’s lots of really compelling research about how the block format is really conducive to relationship building, and that relationship building is foundational to good online teaching,” Dr. Mingarelli added.

Before the last school year ended, Academy teachers were asked to rank how comfortable they would be teaching in different class styles, and which format they would prefer. Ms. Liem noted, “[m]ost courses got their first choices and […] when we basically said, ‘we need more block term courses’, there were a lot of courses that decided they could do a block. So in that sense it wasn’t their first choice, but it was something that they decided that they were able to do just knowing that’s what we needed in terms of the overall student experience.”

By the end of June, teachers knew for sure which format their course would be in. That was also the time in which the scheduling team made of Ms. Liem, Mrs. Donna Au, Academy Scheduling Coordinator, and Mr. Mitchell Krulewich, Academy Math Teacher, had the information they needed to begin creating the new schedules. They started this process about a month after they typically would’ve already completed them.

It took about a week to refine the schedule by finalizing details such as when the start times would be, how long each class would be, and how many block terms there would be. “We actually built two separate schedules. We had one block schedule that we were running and one semester long schedule that we were running in parallel,” Ms. Liem said.

Since the whole day needed to consist of structured time so that students could be traced, conflicts in students’ schedules could be worked out easier. “It’s impossible for us to create a schedule that works for everybody, but we were actually able to create a schedule that works for all but eight students because of conflicts. Those students selected different courses to resolve their conflicts,” Mrs. Au remarked.

Comparatively, the goal is to have less than a thousand students with conflicts when working with the modular schedule.

There’s another phase of balancing block classes in each individual student’s schedule, creating cohorts of students in similar courses, and determining the room schedules. Together, Ms. Liem and Mrs. Au revised each individual academy student’s schedule to work in both in-person and at home learning.“The room schedules took three of four days and then the student schedules took the entire summer,” Ms. Liem noted.