Inside the process of creating class schedules

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Ellen Carrier, Junior Editor

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You look down at your schedule on the first day of senior year. Constitutional law takes the place of US Gov, and Marine Science is missing completely. It seems that the hours you spent meticulously curating the perfect course list last August were all done in vain. How does this always happen—is it that hard to fit you in the classes you need?

When students sign up for classes, their requests go to their respective counselors. The students’ requests are then uploaded into Aspen by the counselors, where a special algorithm places each student into classes. Through this algorithm, each student’s course requests are treated equally.

To make classes equal “we randomly select students and move them into another class. This process is called balancing,” said 12th Grade Assistant Principal and master scheduler Kendric Hawkins. This random process is why you may end up in an unwanted class; the one that was requested had too many students and you were moved into another with fewer people. 

Hawkins explained that some of the most popular classes are Creative Writing, Yearbook, Film Studies, Street Law, Stagecraft, JROTC, Engineering I, and SAT Prep. For classes like these, it is likely that students who are not in need of this credit will be switched into another class so that a priority student can receive the credit. 

For many electives however, the act of “balancing” classes is not done so randomly. Seniors and upperclassmen who need the credit are prioritized over lower classmen. Counselors do this, said Hawkins, “with the ideology that underclassmen will have more opportunities to take electives later in their high school career.” 

However, changing classes isn’t as easy as just going to see a counselor and requesting a switch. “Due to the sheer number of students and limited amount of openings in classes, switching students can be a challenge for the scheduling team of counselors,” said Hawkins. Counselors will always try to meet the requests of their students, but this isn’t always a possibility. 

Hawkins hoped the chaos would be alleviated by the system they have implemented for switching classes. Now, counselors addressed students during a two-day time period allocated for each grade, with students waiting outside the College and Career center in long lines extending to the art hallway. Senior Gabbie Aladjem said that while she was happy that she could switch classes, “it’s annoying that we have to wait in line because it’s not technically our fault because we are just trying to switch into classes that we need to graduate.” 

This year, the Central Office required schedules to be sent out with fourth advisory report cards, so students received their schedules earlier than in the past. Students received their finalized schedule on the first day of school, however, because the schedules that were sent out were tentative and had some mistakes.

Nonetheless, counselors like Leslie Sargent consider the fact that from the time students choose their schedule in the previous school year to when that schedule goes into effect, “a lot of personal change can happen in a young person’s life, so I try to keep an open mind,” Sargent said. Sargent and other counselors respect that students might not support a decision made last year and welcome students from all grades who want to change classes.