Students at Weber are accustomed to spending the early fall months in and out of school for the rapid succession of Jewish High Holidays. Full school weeks are found sparingly between the half days spent observing the holidays. Three of this year’s first 9 weeks were affected by the Jewish holiday calendar.
Weber is a SAIS/SACS accredited school and maintains the required 180 days of school for this accreditation. In order to do this, school is held on days when many public schools are not in session. According to the Fulton County school calendar, schools are off for Columbus Day on October 9 and begin Thanksgiving Break on November 20, while the Weber calendar shows that Weber is in school for Columbus Day and starts Thanksgiving break on November 22. The Fulton County school year began a week prior to the opening of Weber and ends four days before Weber’s year closes.
The mission statement of Weber is that the school “prepares its students for success in college and in life, inspiring them to be knowledgeable, thinking, responsible Jewish adults, by weaving together: The pursuit of academic excellence; A commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish people and Israel; and A responsibility to serve our community and improve our world.” According to Michael Bennett, Dean of Grades 9 and 10, the school mission plays a role in our scheduling.
He says, “Because we are a school that serves the Jewish community, we have to support students’ Jewish identities, whatever that means.”
Even though Weber is a Jewish high school, it is non-denominational within the religion and accommodates the schedules and needs for any denomination. Generally, Weber allots half-days to major holidays if the holiday begins that night.
Some students find themselves in positions of stress as weeks with holidays approach. According to Weber junior Jack Spandorfer, “I had a very high stress level during the holidays because I had a very heavy workload.”
Junior Ruthie Stolovitz says that “They [the Jewish holidays] are a time for introspection, relaxation, and rejuvenation, but our workload often halts that.”
Teachers approach the curriculum for the holidays differently. Social Studies teacher Charlie McQuade says, “The holidays are factored into the planning, but it’s not a big deal.”
However, for some classes, it is more difficult to format class schedules. Dr. Rachel Rothstein, Social Studies teacher, says, “I have to be careful because Fiddler Week [the week when her class watches the film “Fiddler on the Roof”] always falls during the holidays. It doesn’t make sense to watch a movie, start a new unit and have a random day, and every year has to change a little bit. This year, there was one week when kids could have tests, so the junior class had many major assessments and was so stressed out for that one week.”
Bennett says, “Students are stressed because they have 5 days of work compressed into 3 days.” They end up with one, if not two, tests per day and have projects and other assignments as well. The school policy dictates that students cannot have more than 2 major assessments per day, including project due dates.
According to the Weber Parent and Student Handbook, “Students may be assigned a maximum of two major tests or major assignments such as projects on one day….Tests and other major assignments or assessments may not be scheduled on the day immediately following a Jewish holiday or school-sponsored activities such as Shabbaton, Winter Formal, Grade Trips and others indicated by the Principal. Quizzes, homework, and class work may be given on any day and are not bound by this policy.”
This policy stipulates that teachers can assign as much homework and as many quizzes as they see fit. In terms of scheduling, teachers keep track of due dates and test dates with a “Global Test Calendar.” They make sure that they are not scheduling tests or due dates for their students on conflicting dates in order to lower the workload for students.
Even with days off from school, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of work a student can receive.
Junior Sarah Schafer says, “I remember it [the stress level] being like this last year too, where there are so many upcoming projects and I get so overwhelmed by the amount that is coming up that time kind of slips by and I don’t have much time to actually work on it.”
A few ways for students to stay on top of their assignments include: keep a calendar with due dates, write down homework in a planner or to-do list as opposed to trying to remember everything and to communicate with teachers. It is important for students to keep a balanced workload and to not overwhelm themselves with AP and Honors courses. If they feel that they have overworked themselves, it is important to speak with their teachers and deans about strategies to work through their assignments and to possibly make a schedule change.
“Teachers are flexible,” Bennett says. They are trusted to help students learn and grow, as well as make decisions that benefit the students’ mental well-being.