Summertime. The time when school is on a semester break. Whilst it may be a fun summer break for a lot of people, especially the students, to others it is a different time. Instead, a lot of educators are figuring out next semester’s school schedule. The new school year. Trying to move a lot of the pieces around. What classes will the students be taking this year, are there new teachers, and do the teachers have a balanced schedule? Do the students? These are a few of the questions that school counselors and master schedulers are trying to answer.
Sadly, when it comes to the time to start designing next year’s semester, it is known as a really stressful time. Perhaps having started building the schedule as early as last year in October. Some schools truly have to start in advance in order to make the August/September deadline. A complex schedule needs a lot of planning done ahead.
The struggle of next semester’s school schedule
If you are wondering why a master schedule takes up so much time, let us explain to you just how complex this schedule is.
One of the main reasons a master schedule can take days, if not weeks, is due to two important factors. One is the number of students the school has and the other is the number of different classes the school is offering. Each of these factors would represent a piece of the puzzle that has to be solved.
On top of this, if the school wishes to grant what the students have chosen, then this leads to conflicts occurring. Meaning different classes may clash with one another. The school counselor then has to determine if there is a way for that particular student to take the class but on a different day or just say sorry, it is not possible. However, schools will want to be able to give good news to students instead of bad news. So fixing the clashes is a must if possible.
Want to add more pieces to the puzzle? Add in a higher student intake than the year before and even more, courses being offered. All positive areas for a school and the district, but for a master scheduler, news that can bring dread. With a large student population, it is hard to predict what the schedule will even look like.
Problems a master scheduler may face
Besides the time and complications a master scheduler may face, we list down some of the most occurring problems that do happen. This will hopefully help you to understand a master scheduler’s job as well as ways to help ease the process if you are a master scheduler or school counselor.
We briefly mentioned the main problem a master scheduler may face, which is clashes. Schools, mostly high schools or colleges, will allow their students to choose a course they want to enter into for the next school year. This is known as a course request. Allowing flexibility of choice for students can lead to happier students and higher productivity, leading to better attendance rates.
Let’s place a scenario. Imagine you have 100 students and your school is offering 30 different classes, some of which are electives. School is open Monday to Friday with five different periods each day. Some teachers can only be available on certain days and times. Each class can have a maximum of 20 students and they can choose between 5 to 7 courses. With all this information, you need to be able to optimize the class schedule as well as ensuring both teachers and students are satisfied.
I don’t know about you, but that’s an overwhelming amount of information to have. Now take a look at what this final outcome can look like after a lot of time and effort juggling those puzzle pieces.
Most of the time, a master schedule is done manually on a huge board as seen above. It truly looks like a massive puzzle and we are sure it took a great length of time to come to this conclusion. But was anything sacrificed in the process? We surely hope not but sometimes things may get learned on the job.
Understanding your teachers
As head of the school, you need to ensure that the next semester’s school schedule doesn’t feel overwhelming to your teachers. In order to understand what works and what doesn’t work, you need to know the faculty more. Zach Gautier mentions that whilst building the master scheduler, he was assuming one of his teachers would like to have a period off after teaching one or two classes. It couldn’t be further from the truth. He notes how “that science teacher was heartbroken all day” and he learned from that experience.
People are different and if you are able to understand their best way of working to help your teachers to be more productive, a better school environment will be created.
It is easier to build a master schedule than to re-arrange it
We understand that a school schedule needs to be flexible. Things can happen. New students suddenly appear. Returning students may have moved. Whatever the case, the schedule does need some flexibility. However, if you get all the information correct in the first place, then fewer changes will occur at the last minute.
For example in Zach’s situation. To re-arrange the schedule for the science teacher must have taken some time. This is because he wouldn’t have been moving one teacher, but moving several. Plus, he would have had to make sure there were no clashes with these moves.
Do you see how it creates a ripple effect? It kind off feels like going back to square one.
So before you start, ensure you have all the information. Not just about your faculty and student requests, but information such as the number of periods there are in a day. Start and finish time. What type of schedule do you need to create, such as A/B Block versus Traditional Block? Have all this important data before you even begin. It will make your process much easier.
An online schedule builder helping you to be ready for next semester
The task a school master scheduler has before the new school year starts is extremely important. Yet also extremely complex. This was the reason why QuickSchools built Orchestra. To help create software that can aid a school needing to build an online master schedule. Orchestra can come in and help! Yes, you will still need all the previous information we have been discussing, but instead of doing the master schedule manually, it can be online by our software. Simply load the information and click on a few buttons and voila!
With the simple 5-step process, Orchestra will design the schedule for you whilst taking into consideration all the course requests and course restrictions you have put into place. Our automated algorithm will try to get your schedule to 100% complete, and any conflicts that may occur can easily be solved clearly and quickly. Orchestra’s clean master scheduler board allows you to see all the details without the clutter (as seen in the image below).
With the help of Orchestra, it can help you be prepared for the next school year way in advance. Your teachers, students, and parents will be grateful for it.
See exactly how our online master scheduler works by signing up for a free demo. We guarantee Orchestra will help your school “become more efficient and enroll kids immediately.”