What Does Vista Think of FlexTime?

FlexiSCHED® is the online service Vista del Lago High School has adopted for the FlexTime program.

FlexiSCHED® is the online service Vista del Lago High School has adopted for the FlexTime program.

Emanuel Vargas, Staff writer

Starting the week of August 21, 2017, Vista del Lago High School fully initiated their new “FlexTime” schedule, a school-wide program that offers a block of time three days a week for students to receive support for various classes or seek enrichment opportunities. This change is a large departure from the previous advisory-based routine and significantly alters day-to-day class lengths throughout the week.

How does such a bold departure from the old routine fare among students and teachers?

“I think that overwhelmingly, the staff at Vista are really supportive of FlexTime,” said Carrie Jackson, current AP Government and World Geography teacher at Vista del Lago High School. “I think that most of the feedback that the staff has had and that students have had generally has been positive. Of course, there are always going to be people who might view it more negatively.”

Jackson continued, “It’s not a surprise that I might hear some kids say that it’s a waste of time, or it’s not a surprise that I might hear a teacher say, ‘Oh, it’s really stressful because I’m much more constrained for time. I have around 10 minutes shaved off of my class now,’ and so, I am, to an extent, feeling a little bit of the pressure. I am noticing that the time is gone. But, I do think that it’s also nice to not have to be here for an hour after school every single day. That’s how it was last year.”

Undoubtedly, a large part of some teachers’ time on campus last year was related to clubs and other extracurricular activities. For some of these clubs, FlexTime is offering brand new options for both advisers and members that are already beginning to be tested.

“With FlexTime, it opens up the opportunity to be able to do [clubs] during school,” said Jackson, who has began to implement two of her clubs, Model UN and Future Business Leaders of America, and meetings for next March’s International Night into FlexTime. “Now, rather than these clubs being exclusively clubs, they can have more of a classroom setting,” Jackson points out. “Some of them, for example, Model UN and FBLA, are actually courses and classes in some schools … With FlexTime we have the opportunity to meet it halfway … we can certainly have a level of seriousness that we can start to implement that maybe we didn’t get to do before.”

The benefits of holding clubs during school hours are multifaceted. “I know a lot of the people in my clubs, too, being a junior or a senior they end up having an early release,” Jackson said. “We know that the parking situation this year, every year gets a little worse just because we’re getting more students, more people are able to drive, and so a lot of these students decide not to come back for these extracurriculars. That’s another positive of FlexTime: being able to, hopefully, allow those kids to continue to come but it not be a great burden on them to try to look for parking. Especially if the meeting is 20 minutes long, and they’re looking for parking the whole time, by the time they walk over to the classroom, maybe that meeting won’t even be in session anymore.”

For students and teachers, FlexTime does not only create opportunities to develop extracurricular talents during school hours, but it also presents the unique opportunity for teachers to support students in spring or fall term-only classes throughout the school year. “Yes, there is definitely potential for supporting my students who are not currently enrolled in a music class,” said Elicia Carlson, director of both instrumental and choral music ensembles at Vista. “So far, I have positive feelings toward this program. My students who came for leadership training were actively engaged and I was able to give them important information on how to lead their sections. My band students who came to practice used the time wisely…Next week I will be holding informational meetings for the Orchestra tour to Los Angeles that will be happening during Term 2. In the future I plan to offer a silent study hall with classical music as well as more sessions where students can come to practice their music.  Later in the term I will be inviting many of my Term 2 Orchestra students to come play during FlexTime and during Term 2 I will be holding rehearsals for my Term 1 ensembles.” Compared to previous years at Vista where students enrolled in single-term music classes had little opportunity for musical enrichment for those classes outside of their active term, FlexTime’s potential for filling this gap is large.

However, it can’t be denied that FlexTime’s affects class time, particularly classes that implement a daily routine or warm-up. “It’s going to affect everyone differently,” Jackson said. “For me, I definitely experience more positives than negatives, but I wouldn’t be surprised if another teacher had a completely different perspective because they’re mainly concerned with the amount of time they’ve depended on for the last few years to get curriculum finished. If they feel like they can’t get as much done, they might feel even more anxious about getting through the curriculum, which I think they were already feeling before.”

“It seems like [the students] are generally positive [about FlexTime], but that could be for a variety of reasons,” Jackson theorized. For the majority, this statement appears to hold true.

“Advisory was a lot of time to do much less work,” stated Jacob Normington, a junior at Vista del Lago High School. “I like that we have it every day—in Advisory I would usually end up doing nothing.”

“I like it more than Advisory because you can choose where you want to go, and meet up with other people there,”said junior Sam Wentz. “When I went to the Biology study hall, people there were more focused on learning Biology, compared to regular classes.”

“You can get work done,” said sophomore Khushi Salgia. “In Advisory you’re forced to do Advisory activities. With FlexTime you can sign up to do anything you want.”

“I enjoy having the Advisory as well as FlexTime,” said senior Alexa Leight. “I don’t usually have a lot of homework … Flextime is just time for me to relax and get caught up. It’s a comfortable time in the middle of the day, so it takes stress off in being in between classes.”

FlexTime isn’t absent of some criticism, however. “I still don’t really like that it’s in the middle of the day,” Normington said. “I don’t understand what the point of that is.”

“I think it should be at a different time of day—I’d say last,” said sophomore Ben Hanks. “Then you can do that day’s homework.”

“[FlexTime] should be longer; 35 minutes isn’t enough,” said Salgia.

“It could be longer,” Leight agreed.

“FlexTime is very useful. You can get actual help from the teachers,” senior Hunter Happersett said. “I like that there’s time every day to work. I like the idea of what they’re trying to do, but at the same time there’ll be times when I’m doing nothing. They need more fun stuff to do besides just study halls. Then you can either do something fun or get help.”

“I think just right now, as it’s getting laid out people are just starting to get used to it, they’re not quite sure where they should go, and there are a lot of students who don’t necessarily need extra help in their classes—they’ve got it, but maybe they just need extra time. So, if they need extra time, having the Flextime or the study hall available could also free up some time that might be better used for relaxing,” Jackson said.

While in its early stages, FlexTime is a program largely supported by teachers and isd mostly received positively among students–its usefulness throughout this first term will likely reveal the program’s prospects for the future.