Published Nov. 9, 2023
BY SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR
Carmel High School’s 40-minute office hours period, which allows students the opportunity to catch up on missing assignments or seek additional assistance from teachers, has been made mandatory as of the start of this school year with the decision to place it between second and fourth block periods on Thursdays, leading to higher office hours attendance and what some teachers observe as a positive impact on students’ grades.
The previous office hours schedule, in use for 20 years, allowed students to decide for themselves whether to attend as the open period was scheduled before classes began on Thursdays. This change to make office hours attendance on campus mandatory came in part amid concerns that students were not properly utilizing the time to work productively, instead using these 40 minutes to sleep in.
“Students that needed to make up work, assignments or tests were not present on campus,” CHS principal Libby Duethman says. “Now everybody is required to be here for office hours, and everybody is supposed to be on campus.”
Office hours were previously estimated to be utilized by fewer than 25% of CHS students, says teacher Suzanne Marden, who served on a 13-member committee that helped implement this new schedule. Now, with most teachers observing an increase in their office hours attendance, the first quarter of this school year was one of the first at CHS where no athletes were ineligible to compete based on grades.
“The kids who need to be here, who are assigned to my class because they have a D or F, are there for the most part,” says English teacher Shelley Grahl, who has seen her office hours attendance double, if not triple, and an overall positive impact on her students’ grades since the schedule change.
Before this year’s switch, the student population using buses as their primary transportation to school had no option to not attend office hours, regardless of whether they were looking for additional help.
“It turned into if you could sleep in and had the privilege of a parent or the opportunity to drive yourself to school, you didn’t have to come on Thursday mornings,” Marden says. “But if you lived in an outlying community where you didn’t have that same level of support in order to get to school, you had to be here. That reeks of inequity.”
Junior Sebastian Danielson takes the bus and was therefore present at school for every office hours period with the previous schedule while his peers had the decision of whether to attend. Now all students are expected to remain on campus for the entirety of the period.
To help encourage students to utilize this new office hours schedule and solidify this time as instructional, teacher Nora Ward has changed her policies so students can only turn in missing assignments for full credit during office hours.
“It’s been working,” Ward says. “I have a lot less late work, and my folder full of missing tests is empty right now.”
For campus supervisor Josh Leigh, this new office hours schedule creates yet another time when all students require supervision, but differs from lunch periods in that almost all teachers can be guaranteed to be in their classrooms. This demands more monitoring and creates further opportunities for students to ignore rules, Leigh says.
“We had to consider, obviously, the idea of kids who have no place to go during office hours,” Ward says. “How do we make sure they’re not leaving campus?”
Students who choose not to visit teachers for additional help or to make up assignments previously had these 40 minutes to decide how and where to spend their time. Senior Mark Albiol typically uses the office hours period for homework and to get ahead on assignments, something he would have already been doing at home.
“Ultimately I feel like it forces a lot of students to attend what they normally otherwise wouldn’t have,” Albiol says. “And the students motivated to attend office hours already would have.”
For students such as sophomore Julius Dutta, this opportunity to sleep-in was crucial for their health and recovery during the week. This feeling of fatigue is in no way limited to students, with social studies teacher Bill Schrier observing that it feels different coming in on Thursdays and starting to teach right away.
“I’m used to the mid-week break, if you will,” says Schrier, who has also observed an increase in tardiness for his second-period class on Thursdays. “It doesn’t feel that good to start at 7:45 every morning.”
Other students who do not feel the need to spend the time with teachers or make up assignments view this mandatory office hours time as a benefit, helping them to spend their time efficiently and get work done.
“I like the fact that I’m forced to do work,” says senior Elisabeth Hess, who primarily uses office hours for silent study in the library. “When it was the way it was before, I would just use that time to sleep in and wouldn’t get anything done.”
For health teacher Leigh Cambra, the routine that accompanies this new office hours schedule is most important, even for those students who had the opportunity to sleep in an extra 40 minutes on Thursdays.
With this new period of autonomy for students during school hours, students have the ability to choose how to spend their time. Danielson often chooses to practice with the choir or play ping-pong with his friends when he has nothing urgent to do, while sophomores Samantha Hart and Taylor Harris typically use this time to catch up with friends and relax.
“We’re giving you these 40 minutes in the middle of the week for you to learn what you can do with time that is productive,” Marden says. “Productivity can even mean taking care of your mental health.”
What are your views on the new office hours schedule?
“Ultimately I feel like it forces a lot of students to attend what they normally otherwise wouldn’t.”
“Sleeping in later gives you more of a chance to recover and rest and be able to learn better throughout the day.”
“It should be in the morning so that students can decide if they want to use that time to do other things, like sleep in.”
“I like the fact that I’m forced to do work. When it was the way it was before, I
would just use that
time to sleep in and wouldn’t get anything done.”
“The state of California was looking to improve the livelihood of students by making it so that we could wake up later, and this decision prohibits that action by making school earlier.”