Updated bell schedule creating unique challenges for students

Mentor+lessons+have+been+heavily+affected+from+the+updated+schedule.

Photo courtesy of: Keira Clancy

Mentor lessons have been heavily affected from the updated schedule.

Josh Epstein, Lead Editor

With how abnormal this school year has already been, it’s only fitting that there would be a new schedule just one month into the school year. The layout for the new bell schedule was announced in an email from Dr. Fellows on Oct. 1, and was

 implemented on Oct. 5. The most notable effect of the new schedule is first block, which is lengthened from 50 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes. Advisory is now included in first block, and it is up to teachers to decide how to split up class and advisory time. 

   The new bell schedule was put in place due to the number of buses that have been arriving late to school because of the shortage of bus drivers that Henrico County has endured. Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) is now offering new bus drivers a bonus of $1,000-$3,000 that would be paid in installments throughout the school year. In addition to that, HCPS has also increased starting hourly pay for bus drivers that are already on the staff by 15 percent. According to former Deep Run Principal and current Chief of Operations for HCPS Lenny Pritchard, the county is currently in the process of hiring more drivers. He hinted that this could lead to another potential schedule change for the schools in the county. 

   “We have held job fairs where interested candidates could drive a bus,” Pritchard said. “We are slowly getting candidates to apply and complete the needed requirements to become a bus driver.  As drivers are hired to fill in our vacant bus routes, this should impact school schedules.”

   With the numerous schedule changes we have seen in the last two school years, one constant from them all is the lack of One Lunch. The biggest reason students haven’t been able to have One Lunch this year is due to potential spread of Covid-19. Assistant Principal Michael Fennessey said that the school is currently working on bringing back One Lunch, but with the objective of prioritizing safety. 

   “We are working on making the One lunch concept safe,” Fennessey said. “Once we believe that we have a plan we will then need to talk to people that make these decisions.”

   On top of these changes, Wellness Wednesday is also making it’s return to the schedule. Introduced during the later stages of the 2020-21 virtual school year, Wellness Wednesday provided teachers and students an opportunity to work on whatever they needed to. Teachers were able to use that time for lesson planning, while students were able to complete homework assigned by their teachers. In an announcement a few weeks ago, HCPS provided further detail about what went into their decision to bring back Wellness Wednesday.

   Specifics of how this will affect the bell schedule were released in an email from Dr. Fellows. This will only affect Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with the rest of the week’s schedule remaining the same. For Tuesdays and Wednesdays, all classes will be shortened to make time for two advisory sessions. One advisory class will occur after 2nd/3rd block for 40 minutes, and the other advisory class will take place after 4th/5th block for 30 minutes. The morning advisory on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays is a time where students can meet with teachers, have directed study, or use the class as a study hall. During the afternoon advisory on Tuesdays, students will be able to meet with clubs and have directed study. During the afternoon sessions on Wednesdays, students will engage in social-emotional lessons with their teachers and fellow classmates, as well as peer-mentor lessons and the occasional digital-citizenship lessons. 

   With all of the moving parts of this school year, students and teachers should not be surprised if there is another adjustment to the bell schedule, whenever that may be.

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