Students and staff at Eastern Regional High School are only a few weeks into the new school year and the switch to a new rotating bell schedule, but so far district officials and students have positive things to say about the change.
At the Sept. 21 meeting of the Eastern Camden County Regional School District Board of Education — the BOE’s first meeting since the schedule was implemented — Superintendent Harold Melleby Jr. characterized the new bell schedule as “ a big step” in the right direction.
“A lot of time and effort went into this endeavor the last couple years,” Melleby said as he explained how the district had been investigating a new bell schedule for the past several years.
Similar to what was implemented at the Kingsway and Lenape Regional high school districts, the schedule works on a system of students rotating what classes they have depending on what day it is in a four-day cycle.
Although students can be enrolled in possibly up to eight classes at one time, they meet with only six of those classes on a given day, with different classes dropped from the schedule each day. Once through the cycle, students have met with each class three times, and then the cycle begins again.
The other major feature of the new schedule is the creation of a “common lunch” period where all of Eastern’s nearly 2,000 students eat lunch during the same hour-long block of time in the middle of their day. To accommodate the entire study body eating at the same time, Eastern has also opened more areas of the school where students are allowed to meet for lunch.
With that block of time, students also have the ability to schedule a study hall, work in the lab for a lab science course, meet with teachers for extra help or meet with any clubs or other activities with which they may be involved.
Eastern senior and student council president Julie Kim, who served as one of the Eastern BOE’s student representatives for September, told the board she liked the new schedule because it offers students privileges they weren’t given in the past.
“I feel like we are able to be more responsible, and it’s setting us up for college,” Kim said.
Agreeing with Kim was Edward Taufer, president of the class of 2017 and the BOE’s other student representative for the month.
“It’s gives students a lot more opportunity, because a lot of kids have a lot of work, and you now have the opportunity to space that work over time because sometimes you don’t have that class the next day,” Taufer said.
Eastern Principal Robert Tull said he also hopes that through the common lunch period, students will have another incentive to follow rules, else they face a lunch detention and lose the privilege of having more freedom.
“We’re hoping that’s something that’s really going to be a draw,” Tull said.
According to Robert Cloutier, director of curriculum and instruction, the new schedule has also already increased the number of students able to take AP science courses.
Cloutier said 997 students at Eastern are taking AP courses this year, which is more than 100 students more than the previous 2015–2016 school year. Cloutier said much of the increase can be attributed to being able to schedule more science courses with the new bell schedule.