SCHEDULE – High school students went on strike Monday morning to protest a schedule change that doubles the amount of time they spend in a given class.
A student day is comprised of four 90-minute sessions, according to a new block schedule, put in place Monday, as part of the administration’s efforts to redevelop students for personal learning and student safety.
Previously, schoolchildren were accustomed to eight sessions of 45 minutes each.
“It was crazy; we have photos and stuff,” senior student Maximus Garcia said of the strike.
“They got used to the old schedule,” Garcia said, “and then they basically get out of hand with two-hour lessons.”
“Some people say they don’t like sitting in one place for too long,” he said. “They like to move, and they are used to having five minutes to get to class, just stretching, talking to friends, instead of being trapped in the same class for 90 minutes.”
“Because they have expanded the classes,” added striker Isabella Rodriguez, a 10th grade student, “they also moved our meals later. Our last lunch was from 12:30, and now from 1:20 to 1:50. “
Rodriguez also lamented the lack of clarity about the reasons for the change, she said.
Schenectady City School District spokeswoman Karen Corona said the change is in response to concerns about safety and culture, and that reducing the number of times students move out of classes reduces the likelihood of students engaging in conflict.
High school conflicts are well documented during the first month of the year.
One parent recently told the newspaper that his son was attacked twice on the same day, including one that was recorded on video.
A social science teacher recently denounced high school violence, pointing out two times when non-students entered a building looking for violence. In one case, two women were arrested after entering a classroom and attacking a student.
In another case, the attackers left without incident.
According to Corona, the strike started at 9:10 am and lasted for about an hour.
Corona said teachers and administrators were not caught off guard by the strike because the students had told them ahead of time that it was going to happen.
“They weren’t trying to stop the students,” she said. “They went on strike.”
Following the strike, CEO Christopher Chunk met with younger and older students to listen to their concerns, correct misinformation, and discuss the root causes and problems that school staff faced this year that led to change, Corona said.
“The school certainly encourages and respects the voices of students,” Corona said. “What they are trying to do is help students understand why this change is being made, and this is part of the work they did last week – and they will continue to do this and talk to students to try and help them understand the reason for this decision.”
Several parents approached by a reporter for the Daily Gazette during their layoffs said they were unaware of the strike.
But they knew about the new schedule.
“I don’t like it because I think the kids will be bored sitting in class for so long,” parent Samantha Gokul said. “I think this will discourage a lot of kids from going to school.”
Joseph Wickham, an 11th grader, said he did not go on strike because he was worried about upsetting his father.
Wickham said the new timetable is not as bad as he thought, but he believes it is “kind of a confusion” to introduce changes to students one month out of the year.
“I don’t really think the school knows what it’s doing,” he said.
Savannah Piper, an 11th grader, said she didn’t mind the change, but she went on strike to support a friend who she said objected to the new schedule.
First Year Superintendent Anibal Soler, Jr. talked about the new schedule last week as part of a necessary “reset” of high school as it moves to full-time education after a year and a half of distance learning due to the pandemic.
“The traditional schedule of eight classes a day is not right now,” Soler told the reporter. “We have to reset this to get you back on track. Next year may look different. Right now: reboot, get the kids back to school, and do what they’re used to. Create this climate and this culture. Hope the masks come off [eventually] and the children feel more normal again. “
Soler noted that the reset of the climate and culture, as well as the problems associated with fighting and unrest, were discussed back in 2019 under the previous administration.
Then a pandemic began.
“The kids asked for it, but it never really happened,” he said.
Soler acknowledged that students, staff and administrators were tired of returning to face-to-face training.
“In some cases, the violence was a manifestation of the fact that people did not have the social interaction that they were used to,” he said. “Social media makes the game a lot harder. These kids are talking to each other on the Internet, and suddenly they see each other. “
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.
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