EDITORIAL: The right way to address an unanticipated situation during covid

Schenectady High School students stage a "walkout" over a switch to 90-minute classes on Monday.

Schenectady High School students stage a "walkout" over a switch to 90-minute classes on Monday.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the old way of doing things might not necessarily be the best way to do things now, circumstances change rapidly, ideas that seem reasonable on paper don’t always translate perfectly into practice, and eventually, we’ll figure it out.

For a prime example of that, look no further than the Schenectady school district, where school officials tried to adapt a reasonable idea to an unfamiliar situation that led to a student protest on Monday.

The issue revolved around the district’s decision to switch the format of the school day from eight 45-minute classes to four 90-minute classes, a scheduling arrangement known as “block scheduling.”

The district made the move, in part, to make the transition back to in-school learning more manageable. The shorter classes, they decided, weren’t working right now.

They also did it to reduce the number of student-to-student encounters in the hallways that they believe have contributed to reports of violence.

Given the pressing need to address both situations, they didn’t want to wait. So with little notice or explanation, they made the change.

Not all students were happy, and they let district officials know it by staging a protest on Monday against the new schedule.

So where’s the silver lining in all this?

First of all, the students didn’t just walk out of class like indignant brats. They told administrators of their plans well in advance. They staged a peaceful protest. They kept it short, about an hour. They said what was on their minds. Then they went back to class.

Rather than shut down the protest, school officials allowed the students the opportunity to express themselves this way, showing them respect.

Afterward, in a further demonstration by school officials and students in how to deal with situations like this, the district’s executive principal sat down with students to listen to their concerns, clear up any misinformation and discuss the reasoning behind the decision.

Now that the plan is in place, district officials can try to adapt the situation to address the students’ concerns.

For instance, some students were concerned about sitting for long periods. Hopefully, teachers give them breaks and get them up and moving around.

Some students were concerned about waiting so long for their lunch period. Maybe the district can work out a way to get lunches on earlier.

And now that lines of communication are open, maybe there’ll be more consideration for students in future decisions, and maybe students will be more understanding when the district is forced to make changes on the fly.

Covid has taught us that despite our best intentions, not everything will always go smoothly.

But as we’ve seen in Schenectady, not every unanticipated situation has to end badly.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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