The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Ringing The Alarm: New Bell Schedule Sparks Debate

A leaked bell schedule for the upcoming school year is causing mixed reactions among students and staff.
The+most+notable+changes+to+the+bell+schedule+next+year+are+an+embedded+class+period+that+students+will+have+each+day%2C+a+weekly+purple+day+where+students+will+attend+all+classes+and+an+end-time+of+3%3A25+instead+of+3%3A15.+%2F+James+Libresco+for+Theogony.
The most notable changes to the bell schedule next year are an embedded class period that students will have each day, a weekly “purple day” where students will attend all classes and an end-time of 3:25 instead of 3:15. / James Libresco for Theogony.

[Updated June 12 at 10:32 p.m.] A leaked bell schedule for the upcoming school year has been floating around ACHS since April, amplifying discourse among students and staff. A version of that schedule was presented to the school board at their June 6 meeting, while logistical questions and concerns were raised by stakeholders.

The schedule contains several differences to bell schedules of recent years. Most notably, students will attend all seven class periods on Mondays, and have their fifth period class each day of the week. School will end at 3:25 instead of 3:15, and there will be 13 minutes between classes to account for transportation between campuses.

“Our goal was to develop a schedule that met as many of our priorities as possible, without concentrating on just one or two,” said Michael Burch, ACHS lead administrator for operations. 

However, some students and teachers have concerns.

“Personally, I think it’s a little weird,” said junior Seamus White, who has been elected as student body vice-president for next year. “It’s very crazy.”

“I find it extremely confusing,” said art teacher Beth Coast, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

“This schedule seems deprived of any sort of logic or consistency,” said junior Christos Pethokoukis. “Honestly, it seems generated by artificial intelligence.”

One aspect that has caught the eyes of the ACHS community is “Titan Time,” a 30-minute period at the beginning of each day that pushes the start time of classes to 9:05. Similar to “Flex” time currently implemented, the period is intended to give students a chance to meet with clubs and teachers during the school day.

“We needed a schedule that had multiple points of student support,” said Burch. “Titan Time is one of the three connection points in the bell schedule.”

Some teachers agree that this added time will have a positive impact on students.

“I like that they structured in Titan Time so that clubs have time to meet or there can be office hours during the day,” said Amanda Kropp, a social studies teacher and member of the operations committee originally tasked with creating the bell schedule. “I really like the idea that students will have multiple chances to meet with teachers.”

However, some stakeholders worry that placing Titan Time at the beginning of the day will encourage students to come to school late, as it is technically not a class period.

Yay, more time for me to sleep in,” Pethokoukis jokingly said.

“Kids aren’t going to show up,” said Coast.  

Ironically, one of the main factors leading to the creation of Titan Time was improving student attendance, according to a member of the operations committee. 

“Titan Time actually came up because we’re having such a hard time getting students checked in through Minga and the weapons abatement,” said the member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

English teacher Katherine Bentley shared how she has been impacted by this challenge.

“As a teacher, it has been really hard to start class with less than 50 percent of my kids there in the morning,” Bentley, who is also a member of the operations committee, said.

With an extra 30 minutes for check-in, students would theoretically miss less class time.

“That was the whole rationale behind it,” the anonymous member said. 

However, some students said Titan Time, which is about an hour shorter than the current advisory period, must be longer for it to make an impact on their assignments. According to sophomore Peyton Turnbull, a member of the leadership class, the shift from an advisory period of almost 90 minutes each blue day to 30 minutes Tuesday through Friday will “be very harmful for students and could affect students’ grades.” 

“It’s not nearly enough time to get anything done,” said Pethokoukis. “The amount of homework I get is way more than 30 minutes. If they’re gonna make Titan Time 30 minutes, then they should make homework be a maximum of 30 minutes.”

In addition to Titan Time, 5th period will serve as an advisory period, but only on Mondays. However, this time is intended primarily for socio-emotional and academic learning (SEAL) lessons rather than time for students to visit with teachers or complete assignments. Additionally, this class will be pass/fail for students, which is different than current and past advisories where no grades were given.

Another point of contention has been Mondays — dubbed “purple days,” — which will contain all seven class periods. Each period on purple days will be 45 minutes. One motivation for this change was to avoid confusion on when red or blue days fall, as purple days standardize which day of the week students have their class periods.

“From what I can see, what they’re trying to do is stop people from thinking each day, ‘Is it a red day or a blue day today?’” said White. “I think it helps that confusion.”

“I think it will be helpful having set days for red and blue days,” said Turnbull. 

However, some teachers said purple days will be a hassle.

“From an instruction perspective, teachers will have to reorganize their curriculums,” said Anthony DeSain, a science teacher. “All of our lessons are structured around having 80-ish minutes to work with, but now all of a sudden everyone has to make a 45 minute lesson once a week, making a difficult task even more complicated.” 

Coast said she had concerns about how her subject’s classes may be affected.

“For the arts, it’s more difficult to complete assignments and tasks in 45 minutes, especially in ceramics class where you have to set and clean up,” she said.

Other teachers shared concerns that holidays throughout the year may impact one day of classes disproportionally. A Theogony analysis created using the 2024-25 ACPS yearlong calendar found there will be 6 more red days than blue days next year.

More to the dismay of purple days, internal documents created by the operations committee, which Theogony has obtained, concluded that teachers would “hate” having a period of 45 minutes. 

“There were about 20 people on this committee from both King Street and Minnie Howard,” the anonymous member said. “It was very well represented and included midlevel administrators and a lot of staff members from various departments.”

Three members of the committee — DeSain, science teacher Trisha Christopher and the anonymous member — said they felt committee members’ perspectives were not taken into consideration by upper administrators. According to them, the committee created at least three different schedules, but none of them were approved.

According to Burch, two of those schedules “exceeded the capabilities of the master schedule,” and some of the other proposals “focused solely on one principle, rather than addressing multiple priorities.” Eventually, the committee members say upper administrators presented them with the leaked schedule that has now been presented to the school board.

 “We were given a schedule that looked nothing like the four we had presented,” said the anonymous member. 

“It was a really frustrating experience for me and several other people because we put in a lot of time and effort into creating the schedules and we were trying our best,” said DeSain. “Is it possible we didn’t have the best solution? Absolutely. But to just have that thrown out and told, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this thing instead,’ was really difficult.”

Some committee members said the leaked schedule was especially upsetting because it included aspects, like the purple day and embedded class period, that the committee sought to avoid when curating their schedules.

But Kropp said she’s not upset at the end result.

“It was a little frustrating that they ultimately chose a schedule that wasn’t democratically created,” Kropp said. “But I think it’s the best we can do since we’re sort of going into uncharted territory [with the new campus].”

Along with questions about its components, members said they are curious where the new schedule came from, considering it was not created by the operations committee. According to Burch, inspiration was pulled from Thomas Jefferson High School as well as the academies of Loudoun, Hampton and Nashville.

“The anchor day structure is currently used by Thomas Jefferson High School and was also proposed by the International Academy in previous committees,” said Burch. “The Titan Time concept draws from our past experiences with the Titan Lunch program and previous advisory structures.”

But some teachers on the operations committee disagree. Noting how the leaked schedule was shared with them days after an administrator trip to schools using the academy model in Nashville, Tennessee, they believe the schedule was heavily inspired by those schools.

“Leadership from Central Office and several people from King St. learned a lot about how [Nashville is] operating their academy system, which we’re sort of trying to model off of,” DeSain said. “They have a bell schedule that is much more similar to the one upper administration came back and showed to us … I assume there is a very strong correlation between the trip to Nashville and that bell schedule.”

The current bell schedules from Thomas Jefferson High School, the Academies of Hampton, and the Academies of Loudoun inspired the upcoming bell schedule, according to Burch. The Academies of Nashville did not provide their bell schedule at publishing time despite multiple requests from Theogony, and the schedule for the Academies of Hampton pictured above is the primary schedule, however, it may vary based on schools. / Images found on websites of Fairfax County Public Schools, Loudoun County Public Schools and Hampton City Schools. Graphic by James Libresco for Theogony.

Notably, the Academies of Nashville contain 12 schools, each with between two and four academies. This is a stark contrast to ACHS, which contains two main campuses that each will host all six learning academies, according to information on the ACPS website.

“There is no school in the state, maybe even in the country, that has this many kids and this many campuses,” said White. “So I think going to another school and saying ‘this works for them, it must work for us,’ is really not smart.” 

Still, White says he believes some changes must be made. 

“Next year is going to be different, so we will need a different bell schedule,” he said. “But I don’t think this is the right one.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated the schedule was approved by the school board. This is incorrect. The schedule was included in a presentation to the board, however, the board did not and will not vote on it. Theogony regrets the error. 

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