At a school that offers 165 courses, with an 8-block schedule and 920 students, scheduling conflicts seem inevitable. For LHS guidance counselor Mr. Michael Rosemond, about 15% of his 200 students deal with these course conflicts every year. Many students arrive on the first day of school surprised to see that some of the classes they’d enrolled in are missing from their schedules. They, and many others, are largely unaware of the efforts put into remedying student schedule conflicts at LHS. First, a brief explanation about how these schedules are formed.
Tackling this complex task begins in late fall. Principal Thomas Landers and the Department Chair Council update certain areas of the Educational Opportunities. After Superintendent O’Shea and the Longmeadow School Committee are advised about the Educational Opportunities book, the baton is passed to Director of Counseling Ms. Donna Lyons, Mr. Landers, Assistant Principal Lisa Efstratios, and LPS Student Data Specialist, Asa Nilsson. They prepare PowerSchool for the course recommendations and requests that students will see in early March.
After submitting their course requests, students then discuss their selections with counselors. According to Mr. Rosemond, guidance counselors keep in mind both course recommendations and student interests, and the “…career goal of the student…[and] time demands of academics and extracurricular activities”. After student requests are processed, classes with minimal student interest are canceled.
Ms. Lyons, alongside Mr. Jamie Dibbern and Mrs. Meghan Roy, then schedule science and wellness classes. Next, Mrs. Nilsson begins building the schedule. Teaching and classroom assignments, and ice and support blocks are all necessary components in this process. Schedule runs are then completed around late spring before Mr. Landers, Mrs. Efstratios, and Ms. Lyons review the final schedule.
These final schedules are released to students in mid-August. For three days, counselors will meet with students hoping to change schedules. Julia Rice, a junior, was one of these students who scheduled an appointment. “I originally signed up for Drawing and Painting in the spring, but when I received my schedule in August, it wasn’t there. I decided to go have a meeting with my guidance counselor to fix this, but the class was already full and it conflicted with some of my other classes. Luckily, I was also recommended for Honors and was able to join that class.”
But how can students better anticipate these schedule conflicts? As Mr. Rosemond puts it, “There is no way of predicting potential conflicts,” but it is important to understand a few key facts. Single section classes, or ones with lesser numbers of available sections, are often the sources of conflict. Consequently, the more “singleton” classes a student selects, the more likely they’ll have a conflict. Juniors and seniors are most prone to schedule conflicts because they generally enroll in more singleton classes. Unless they enroll in seven classes, 9th and 10th graders usually won’t have a conflict.
Unfortunately, when students are unable to take a class due to schedule conflicts, they are not the only ones negatively affected. Singleton classes that rely on collaboration, such as band and orchestra, take a toll as well. As Instrumental Music Director Dr. Arthur Thovmasian sees it, a class like this is a “‘we’ class rather than an ‘I’ class.” When students choose other singleton classes over the music program, Dr. Thovmasian states that it affects the entire class: “It can take away student leadership and some of the historical knowledge of how the group works. It is incredibly helpful when the more experienced students can help the younger students; but if you take that student leadership away…It’s like taking the captains of a team away.”
When asked if he saw any solutions to these schedule conflicts, Dr. Thovmasian said “Each conflict and student is unique so there isn’t a blanket way currently to work out these issues. However, there seem to be certain singleton classes that do come up against each other that I believe are getting looked at to keep away from each other on the schedule…”
At the end of the day, for many students scheduling conflicts are unavoidable. Luckily, as Mr. Rosemond points out, “Counselors help students evaluate their options and the pros and cons of taking a particular class over another, but the student and parent make the final decision about course selection.”