One of the key priorities outlined in our strategic plan, A Bold Plan for Excellence, is the need for a schedule that fosters time for reflective learning, offers experiential learning opportunities, improves student wellness, and provides dedicated community time for students and faculty to support collaboration, club activity, professional development, and more.
Saint Mary's Hall utilizes a healthy and dynamic daily schedule to achieve these objectives. Overall, we are guided by the belief that a schedule should:
- promote academic excellence and quality of the school’s programming;
- focus on student wellness and homework load;
- allow for innovation, reflective learning, and intellectual curiosity;
- provide community time and learning opportunities on and off campus; and
- enhance time for faculty and student collaboration.
The science of learning is clear. Students learn best when they have close relationships, are known in a community, and have time for their learning to become deeply understood and ingrained.
Head of School Len Miller
The Upper School schedule at Saint Mary's Hall centers around the needs and opportunities presented during adolescent development. Rotating 80-minute blocks cultivate a classroom environment guided by deep inquiry, meaningful application, and independent discovery. Four class meetings during the academic day support a homework philosophy rooted in balance and relevance. Students will also enjoy free time in their schedule to meet with teachers, relax with friends, or engage in a project of individual interest. Saint Mary's Hall observes that the demands on 21st-century learners include collaboration, personal well-being, creative expression, resilience, and engaging global perspectives. The intentional incorporation of Office Hours, Health and Wellness, Community Time, Advisory, and Student Leadership initiatives in the schedule reflect SMH's deep commitment to providing students with the necessary proficiencies and opportunities to experience fulfillment in college and beyond.
Head of Upper School Liz Stockdale
We wanted to create a schedule that is developmentally appropriate for the Middle School in terms of length of classes, provides the opportunity for exploration and discovery, and adheres to the need for flexibility due to the changing needs of this age group. The ideal schedule would include daily interaction with advisors, no more than three core classes a day, have vertical rotation of classes, have approximately 70 minute-long classes, unstructured down time/recess, and allow for time to meet with teachers and get extra help, and reflection. The schedule would also feature a pause between classes to focus on what is coming next, and time at the end of the day to pack up and not feel rushed to get to important after-school activities. Around our three core classes, students will have more time for study hall and faculty office hours, daily unstructured time for Advisory so advisors and students can create more meaningful relationships, and flexibility to build upon the schedule to create more opportunities for exploration and discovery in the future.
Head of Middle School Sarah Visagie
We worked to create a student-centered schedule for Lower School which makes social and emotional learning and connection central to the classroom community and allows time and flexibility for students to take a deeper dive into learning. The ideal Lower School schedule will be set up in an eight-day rotation with specials, recess, and lunch set at specific times every day. Core subjects would be taught at various times of the day throughout the rotation to allow all students an opportunity to receive content instruction that best suits their optimal learning time. Specials, recess, and lunch will be thoughtfully and strategically placed in the day to allow longer blocks of uninterrupted learning as well as for interdisciplinary learning. Creating longer blocks of core learning, the schedule would provide opportunities for flexibility, spontaneity, and creativity. Specifically, the ideal Lower School schedule will allow more time for homeroom teachers and students to create a strong classroom community and sense of belonging; time for deeper dives into learning, collaboration, and connection; and time to allow space each day for calm reflection, celebration, and closure. Finally, the Lower School needs time for faculty and staff to collaborate and brainstorm innovative ways to improve student learning and achievement.
Head of Lower School Khristi Bates
- What guiding principles informed the schedule review process?
- Is this a block schedule like students will experience in college?
- Can you explain the 8-day rotation?
- What are the drop-off times for each division?
- Are students and teachers losing time together in the classroom?
- Will teachers assign double the homework for days when their class doesn’t meet?
- What is the "Wellness" course?
- Will the addition of the Wellness Course impact our strong academic program negatively?
- How will the “community” time be used?
- What are office hours?
- Will there be changes to the lunch schedule?
- When will Lower School students receive their school schedules?
- What differentiates Morning Moments and Morning Meeting for Lower School?
Many people refer to this type of schedule as a “block schedule.” However, it is not a traditional block schedule but instead created specifically for SMH and our unique academic environment. Our schedule is age-appropriate for our students and gives students the opportunity to manage their time in a more real-world manner.
Our days will be numbered Day 1 through Day 8. We will rotate through the eight days and then return to Day 1 after Day 8 is completed. Students will meet in each class four times in an eight-day rotation (every other day). A student’s optimal learning time can vary throughout the day, so classes rotate vertically over the eight-day rotation, ensuring variations in class times.
Students in Lower School can arrive as early as 7:45am.
Students in Middle and Upper School can arrive as early as 7:30 am.
Wednesday Start Times: Please note, every Wednesday, the start time for Lower School will vary slightly. Lower School students will begin at 8:40am, while Middle School and Upper School will begin at their normal times of 8:15 and 8:30, respectively . However, arrival times will remain the same for Lower School parents who need to drop off students at the regularly scheduled time above. More details will be sent out about this from Division Heads.
As in past years, Extended Care will be available for 7:00am drop-offs.
On Wednesdays, all faculty engaged in our Professional Learning Community (PLC) initiative from 7:30-8:15am. PLC’s are intentional time given to faculty for collective inquiry into best practices and current realities. This time will be critical for faculty as we consistently focus on strengthening the student experience and programming at SMH. We are working to ensure PLC’s do not impact family schedules.
While the new schedule breaks the day in new ways, our actual time/minutes with students are enhanced. Each day students will learn in 70-to-75-minute class blocks, which supports sustained intellectual engagement and facilitates a more balanced homework philosophy without sacrificing academic excellence. Students will typically only need to prepare for four classes each day.
In Lower School, students gain homeroom time, which provides opportunities for connection, deeper learning, and exploration.
In Middle School, students will start each day with their Advisor, providing opportunities for strong connections and help throughout their Middle School journey.
No, they will assign an appropriate amount of homework but not double up. A key benefit of the eight-day rotation is the opportunity for students to give deeper focus to fewer classes each day. There is also more designated free time during the day, allowing students to do homework and seek help from teachers while at school. Our faculty is committed to a homework load that supports learning. We will continue to review this critical area and ensure we manage the homework process well.
Having a focus on academics and wellness are not mutually exclusive. The science is clear that student wellness adds to the ability for students to learn and thrive. We will maintain our focus on academic excellence and prioritize a healthy approach to workload. Our new schedule strengthens our ability to educate students and create a healthy learning environment.
Divisions and Forms will have a common, designated lunchtime, coordinated to ensure our cafeteria staff can serve students efficiently and students have ample time to eat and connect. Lunch service in a school environment remains one of our most critical and logistical challenging functions. We will ensure that lunchtime is healthy, delicious, and efficient for our students in this new system.
Because the flow of the Lower School day is slightly different than the other Divisions, teachers work in completing the schedules with reading, science, and other Form-level subjects, and tailoring them to their own classrooms every August. Parent Night is where teachers share schedule information as they usually have scheduling adjustments the first few days of school. Lower School students will receive their schedules at Parent Nights this August. Lower School Parent Nights will occur on Thursday, August 19, 6-7pm for Montessori/Kindergarten and Thursday, August 26, 6-7pm, for Forms 1-5.
Morning Meeting is an important aspect of Responsive Classroom and occurs at the outset of each day within the classroom. It is an engaging way to build a strong sense of community and set children up for success socially and academically. Morning Moments is a time when Forms 1-5 come together to collectively celebrate our Lower school community.