At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year The Gregory School decided to offer a brand new, unprecedented after school class schedule for students: the Encore system. Encore classes were intended to offer a variety of new electives for students while still accommodating extracurriculars and maintaining a short 2:30 PM dismissal.
When asked about the intention of the Encore period, Head of School Dr. Julie Sherrill said, “The purpose was to lengthen the day and give students more flexibility and options beyond athletics. It is challenging to build a schedule with a small enrollment, so it allows you [students] more potential combinations.”
The Encore period occurs from 2:35 – 3:45 PM, immediately following the last block of the day. Encore classes were available for sign up during registration days, with a large selection of different classes offered for all sorts of interests. Only a handful of these classes ended up coming to fruition in the schedule. Head of School Dr. Julie Sherrill said of Encore attendance, “It was less than we hoped for.”
While most Encore classes were originally classes not offered during the day – Italian, Digital Storytelling, etc, other classes were relegated to Encore periods in order to best accommodate the students who wanted to take them, like the lab periods for AP Biology and AP Physics. As the school year progressed, encore attendance again dropped off, Sherrill said, “Many classes like yoga started off strong, but numbers dropped off. We are looking at the reasons.” She added, “Were students pulled in different directions? That sort of thing.”
As with any new system that is introduced, the exact benefits and drawbacks of Encore classes are still being finetuned. Particular problems have occurred with the AP Science labs especially, as many students never specifically signed up for an Encore period but returned to school only to discover they’d been placed in it. The Encore science periods follow a slightly irregular schedule of meeting every first Day 1 Encore. In practice this means they skip one Day 1 Encore class, and then attend the second. This means most times the Encore period only meets once or twice at most a week.
For some students, it is as simple as having four academic classes on a Day 1 already, with a fifth AP science class added on making the workload nearly unbearable. Members of the AP Biology Encore class admitted that they found it unfair that they had to attend an Encore period they’d never signed up for, while the other AP Biology section did not. AP Biology teacher Kevin Rolle commented, “There aren’t many of them, but for the ones who have that it’s a major challenge.”
Other conflicts include athletics. Rolle, as a teacher, has noticed that in fact despite the purpose of Encore classes, there have been conflicts caused by athletics. He noted, “It’s been challenging because athletes who are in my academic class are missing their practice, which I think probably impacts the team and the individual who doesn’t get to practice with the team.” He added, “And then as time goes on they get very anxious about getting out of class early because they know what they’re missing.”
Mr. Dennis Conner, teacher of the AP Physics class, admits that the largest problem concerning having Encore classes for a lab period is the number of students that don’t end up coming to class. Conner said “I think it’s been harder because the end of the school day competes with a lot of extracurriculars. It’s frustrating to students and sometimes the absenteeism is frustrating to teachers.”
Both Conner and Rolle said that after this year’s progress they would prefer last year’s schedule, where the Encore block did not exist. Conner added, “It’s a hard situation right now and it makes things more difficult than the traditional system.”
Sherrill is currently working on refining the Encore system so that it better accommodates students and produces more participation.
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