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What to look for in the new NYC School Schedule Models

July 8, 2020 am31 9:14 am

New York City’s first attempt to make plans for September did not stand up to scrutiny. Is there a chance that today’s “Schedule Models” will contain better news?

On June 9 the Department of Education released a planning document, “SCHOOL BUILDING RE-OPENING PRELIMINARY PLANNING OVERVIEW.” It was not good. Here’s the powerpoint. Here’s my take.

I explained in a separate post why the DoE’s schedule suggestion the first time, an AB model, was non-serious. Read here.

It did not account for rooms, teachers, class size, remote learning, special services, lunch, PE… It was the sort of “plan” I might get from a group of lazy high school sophomore boys: there’s a chart, but it doesn’t make much sense, because not much work went into it.

Let’s hope they are more sophisticated this time. What to look for (the order is arbitrary):

Variety of levels – are there plans that are suitable for elementary? plans for middle schools/jhs/intermediate schools? plans for high school? Plans for D75? Their first run seems to have been designed for elementary only (and still unworkable). Look not just for multiple models, but for multiple models at each level.

Details – Do the models contain details, or are they bits of suggestions, sprinkled with aphorisms? If there is no sense of worked out details, then the models are not the beginnings of plans. Having details is no guarantee that the thing will work, but lack of details would be a tell that these will not work.

Useable “out of the box” – in schools where the capacity to plan is minimal – and that is going to be many of our schools – an out of the box model will be needed. (Our principals were NOT trained to do this sort of work. Our programmers generally deal with one or two new ideas at a time, not a brand new schedule. Somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of our schools fall in this category (my guesstimate, having looked at master schedules and spoken to teachers from across the city). So we should see an option at each level that can be used with virtually no modification. If there is not, we may have a recipe for chaos in September.

Physical Education – no matter how good or how bad a schedule model is, I cannot start programming until I know what to do with PE. Is it remote? Is it live? What are the space requirements? If the models fail to address PE, that’s a very bad sign.

Lunch – no matter how good or how bad a schedule model is, I cannot start programming until I know what to do with lunch. This is huge. Lunch is normally a time that creates breaks in teacher schedules. If lunch is kept in the classrooms, who supervises? This is not a small part of the schedule. If the models fail to address lunch, it probably cannot work.

Some students fully remote – I’ve been able to create a workable (but not very good) model that brings in 9th grade, but leaves other grades remote. I might try for 9 and 10, or 9 and 12. Not sure if they will fly. Other programmers have been very generous in finding holes – leaving me pretty iffy about this. However, I needed to leave 50 or 75% of my school remote to even make it plausible. I expect that good models will include leaving some grades or particular groups of kids behind. (On the other hand, if 20% of my school, unevenly, but across the board, opts to stay home, that does not reduce the complexity of the schedule, but leaves me less room to maneuver. That does not solve any problems.) If the DoE models leave groups of kids (not just volunteers) remote, that’s a sign that they are thinking seriously about this.

Some classes fully remote – Leaving entire subjects remote might help make a hybrid schedule possible. I hear schools thinking about only bringing in their core subjects. Mulgrew suggested (and I agree) that some schools might have better luck keeping core classes remote, and making the others live or hybrid. In any case, if the DoE models suggest leaving whole classes/subjects remote, that’s a sign that they have done some actual thinking.

Social-Emotional Learning – This is like dealing with massive trauma. The need for SEL is huge. The DoE will mention it. But if they attempt to roll SEL into the schedule models, in a specific way, that would be a good sign.

Note:  It is possible that the only “hybrid” model that works is one that brings in children for activities and services that support SEL, and leaves all or almost all academics remote.  We should talk more about this possibility.

Worked out examples – If there is a fully worked out example for ANY model, that would be a good sign that they are starting to engage in the necessary work. If there is a fully worked out example for ALL models, that would mean that they are doing what they are supposed to do.

No simple division – If we take the student population, add the staff, and divide by the socially distanced capacity of the building, and round up – that can lead us to a number of “cohorts.” For example, my school, they would get 3.4, round up to 4, and say “hey, Jonathan, divide the kids into four groups, A, B, C, D, and have them come in every fourth day (or fourth week). That’s a “plan” that satisfies only the space requirement – there will be enough room for everybody who arrives each day. That does not satisfy anything else – remote teaching – movement – special services – special classes. I argued a bit with Sterling Roberson and Michael Mulgrew about this – Sterling thought I was being too categorical when I called this approach “impossible” – though he did not argue that it was a good approach. When I claimed that no school could be scheduled this way, Mulgrew retorted that there actually was one – but then added that they had defined “cohort” differently – in other words, were not bringing all the kids in. If their model tells us how to calculate the number of cohorts, and stops there – that won’t work – that’s not a model that will make it possible for school to open in September.

Coordination between schools – some models under discussion (by programmers, not necessarily by the New York  City Department of Education) would require coordination between schools. For example, and this could make sense, a model where K-8 goes live, and 9-12 stays remote, would require coordination in the allocation of space in high schools to elementary and middle schools. The central aspect of this planning would be hard. If Central includes models in which it takes on responsibility for coordination between schools, that would be a good sign that they are attempting to engage in actual planning.

Who does what remote teaching – This could be a logistical nightmare. In any given school, there will be teachers who receive accommodations. There will be kids who choose to stay remote. But it is highly unlikely that the needs will match. If there is SOME (not all) remote teaching there needs to be an actual plan for how to make this work. If they do not address this centrally, remote teaching in a hybrid environment will be impossible to schedule in most schools.

Is a remote component necessary? – Another way to look at a hybrid model is that some students get live instruction, the rest are on break until their turn. It’s worked elsewhere. If the DoE considered this, it would be a sign that they are taking the complexity of the problem seriously.

Staffing – almost any hybrid plan, including many that leave some students and some classes remote, will require additional staff. If they pretend that we can do any of this without addressing staffing, that is a very, very bad sign for September.

Central staff with teaching licenses – For obvious reasons. We are way understaffed (over-crowded schools) in regular times. Going hybrid or live in September will create serious shortages. If the models do not invoke the licenses of those in the system who do not currently teach, they are just not serious.

Delays – The Chancellor announced a timeline last Thursday, July 2 on a conference call for principals. The timeline released DoE schedule models (and school budgets) on Tuesday, July 7. Neither one of those happened. Instead, we now expect models today, July 8 (and budgets today or tomorrow). One day? Does it matter? Wait. The timeline also demanded that schools choose a model by July 23. One day out of sixteen does matter. If there are further delays, that would probably indicate the process is in shambles.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Aaron Pallas permalink
    July 8, 2020 pm31 12:37 pm 12:37 pm

    Virtually none of this got addressed. What a nightmare.

    • July 8, 2020 pm31 5:25 pm 5:25 pm

      They are assigning licensed staff in central to remote teach. They have a separate model (to be seen, but they said so) for D75. And there was no further delay.

  2. SabinTeacher permalink
    July 8, 2020 pm31 6:45 pm 6:45 pm

    Yes I work 6.25 hours per CTU contract with The Chgo Board of Ed. Been that way for twenty years. If Chgo follows NYC model, I would prefer the “break” model, i.e. the kids on B are on break until we re-convene. I go home and make dinner and spend time with my family thank you very much! Also, if we count out preps and lunch because both happen in our room, why does the day still have to be SEVEN hours? I hope CTU is negotiating a cut in hours for SY 21. Right now they’re negotiating football coach work language cut summer conditioning would normally start next week smh


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