High school, both academically and socially, plays a large role—perhaps the largest role—in everyday teen life. So when you look at Sequoyah’s schedule, it can be a surprise to see that the school day only takes up seven hours. But when you factor in additional extracurricular commitments (sports, debate, theater, etc.), along with homework, projects, test prep, and other educational programs, students often find school spilling over into other facets of their lives. Project deadlines, study sessions, and test results can occupy a lot of mental space, often detracting from individual, non-educational activities teenagers also need to thrive. But is this just the way things work for high schoolers, or is it possible for the work/life balance at Sequoyah to be altered? To find out more, The Barefoot Times spoke with two current students and a teacher about their daily schedules and how they’d choose to modify them.
Sophia Schafer-Wharton ’26 has brainstormed potential changes to the current Sequoyah schedule, including a daily 8:45 start time, changing the Morning Meeting and Advisory programs to occur biweekly, as opposed to every day, and shorter Friday classes (similar to Sequoyah’s previous schedule, which contained built-in club time). When asked about her energy levels throughout the day, Schafer-Wharton said, “In the morning, I’m very, very tired sometimes.” She noted the difference, however, between the tiredness she feels in the mornings and the exhaustion she experiences at the end of the day, due to the draining nature of completing schoolwork, paying close attention in class, and interacting with people for prolonged periods of time. Schafer-Wharton also noted the difficulty of isolating school from other areas of her life, both in terms of time allotment and the mental space school takes up. “[During] lunch,” she stated, “the rest of school and everything else sometimes seeps in a bit and you feel like you should be working.” When asked about the time she has to pursue her individual interests, she sighed. “Even on the weekends, I feel like I’m not able to do all the things that I enjoy, and I feel like that affects my mental health. I don’t really have things to look forward to, so that just makes the schoolwork and everything more monotonous.” Schafer-Wharton also commented on the necessity of a healthy teenage sleep schedule, saying “the thing with teenagers is that a lot of us like to stay up late, but also need so much sleep. And that just isn’t how school is designed.”
Physics teacher Kevin Delin elaborated on Schafer-Wharton’s statements concerning the difficulties arising from a lack of creative, nonacademic work. “If you’re going from place to place to place,” Delin said, “you might get more homework done, maybe, but you’re not going to be able to be creative mentally.” He added that learning is generally more dependent on the mental connections we make, which in turn form new neurological pathways. Delin also noted the Sequoyah schedule deviates from the state-mandated school start time—8:30 A.M. at the earliest for public high schools—and generally contains less time in class. (Sequoyah’s modular schedule, which includes 80-minute class periods, means a year’s worth of classes are covered in a semester.) Delin suggests the implementation of policies practiced at other levels of education, including his past experience overseeing a group of scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I would give my people four hours a week to do whatever they wanted to do because I found when people were non-scheduled, they actually were more productive than if they were glued to their desk or computer.” He suggested a similar schedule could be implemented at Sequoyah: “a study hall, zero scheduling, that you could either sit and work quietly, or use it to talk to teachers.” He ended his observation by remarking, similarly to Schafer-Wharton, that this lack of built-in student work time can leak into other breaks during the day. To put it succinctly, as Delin did: “Lunch should be lunch.”
Current ninth grade representative Hart LippSmith ’27 had more to add to the discussion, agreeing with the previously stated difficulties around balancing personal responsibilities with school-imposed ones. They noted, “I feel like some of the things I’m required to do but don’t have as much priority as school—like chores and practicing my instrument—I do them less and less frequently. It makes me feel really guilty, because my family members have to pick up the slack.” LippSmith stated there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to complete their schoolwork, take care of other personal responsibilities, do activities for pleasure, and have a consistent sleep schedule. However, LippSmith did have good things to say about the current schedule, noting Sequoyah’s earlier start time can make life easier for working parents, as well as seconding Schafer-Wharton’s statements about the positive lunchtime environment, which can raise energy levels and decrease stress. Similar to Delin, LippSmith’s ideal schedule would include a study hall period—possibly during Z block or SIP time—to allow students to meet with teachers and/or work independently. Currently, LippSmith said, there can be a lack of communication between teachers about student workload, causing more stress that can alter student sleep patterns and leak into everyday life. LippSmith recounted a recent experience of doing five hours of homework on Saturday and consulting their family for scheduling advice–unfortunately, there was even more work the next day. LippSmith joked, “For the sake of my GPA, I struggle.”
Sequoyah boasts a largely unconventional culture, which—to some degree—is reflected in its schedule. After all, how many other high schools allow the entire month of May for students to prepare university-level presentations and trek up the side of a mountain? But the question remains: is it possible for the bohemianism of Sequoyah’s school environment to be reflected in its schedule, or are there simply too many constraints, given the mandates in place to make sure high schools run as they should? The answer is up in the air, but it’s clear these challenges with scheduling at Sequoyah merit further consideration. After all, to put it as Schafer-Wharton did, educational engagement comes from active workshopping and discussion.