Every summer, the anticipation of receiving the upcoming school year’s class schedule can be agonizing. The suspense stops in late August when students receive their schedules and can compare with friends to see who will share classes. Often times, students overlook the process of how these schedules are created.
Finding a way to make over 700 students and faculty fit into a five-day schedule like clockwork seems impossible. With various moving parts such as students adding and dropping classes and a myriad of offered electives, the process can seem daunting. However, for the scheduler of the school, Stacey Turner, it is like an enormous puzzle. “It’s a big puzzle for me and I love puzzles,” said Turner.
The scheduling process can be difficult due to the unique nature of the Nobles academic day. “The way we do lunch is unlike any other school and most computer programs can’t deal with it... we have so many singletons [which are classes that only meet once a week] and all scheduling programs want to do those first, so until we change the way we do lunch I don’t think we have any option other than to do it manually,” Turner said.
Turner spends most of June and July scheduling, often coming into Nobles early in the morning and working until late in the afternoon. “I’m in here every morning by seven or seven-thirty, and I don’t leave until between three-thirty and four-thirty every day. Sometimes I work when I get home, just to get it done,” said Turner. The amount of time spent on the scheduling process can be attributed to the difficulty associated with course changes, the number of classes a student takes, or simply classes not lining up.
Despite these difficulties, Turner stated that it is her job to deal with these conflicts and course drops. “The job of a scheduler is to try to make as many things happen as possible,” said Senior Master Nick Nickerson, who led Nobles scheduling prior to Turner. Additionally, Nickerson said that the process was more rewarding when the most scheduling requests were met.
Unfortunately, due to the intertwined nature of students’ schedules, not all scheduling requests can be met. “Everything is connected. There was once a situation where I couldn’t get a middle school study hall to work because of a history teacher in the Upper School. There was some connection and it’s bizarre. It’s like a big huge spider web. You pluck a string over here, it vibrates over there,” said Nickerson. A good year equates to only a handful of unmet scheduling requests, while other years over 25 requests cannot be met.
In a situation where there are two conflicts that can’t be solved, the student with the less extravagant schedule is generally favored. “The person who has the normal load should get priority... then you feel less inclined to fulfill some unusual request like taking three histories,” explained Nickerson.
Another difficulty with scheduling includes establishing gender balance in classes. “My goal is to get 600 kids into the classes they want and make sure the classes aren’t 13 boys and one girl. I try to balance gender when I can,” said Turner. She also noted that it is difficult to balance gender in singleton classes such as advanced projects in physics where sometimes there is only one girl or one boy taking the class.
Although time-consuming and difficult to do, one thing that Nickerson and Turner agreed on is that the job of scheduling is a lot of fun and rewarding, attributing this to helping as many students take the classes they wish to take. Nickerson believes that the school is lucky to have Turner as the mastermind behind the school’s scheduling. “Mrs. Turner, she is an amazing problem solver. We’re so lucky to have her,” Nickerson said.
By Toby Urell, Staff Writer, February 2019