By Lyonel Doherty

[email protected]

A senior DTSS student is ardent in her quest to change what she calls a “confusing” timetable that leaves some pupils to continually question what day it is.

Hannah Bentley in Grade 12 addressed the Parent’s Advisory Council (PAC) on April 17 to present her case and ask for a letter of support after school administration rejected her call for change. She has now appealed and plans to take her case and petition to the board of trustees.

“We (the student body) believe the change will lead to an improvement in our academic environment,” Bentley said in a letter to the PAC executive. 

She noted that the absence of a block rotation between afternoon and morning classes, along with the inconsistency in the Day 1 and Day 2 rotation, is adversely impacting learning at DTSS. 

Bentley said the lack of rotation results in two classes consistently being scheduled in the afternoon. 

“This poses a challenge, as our optimal learning capacity is during morning classes. By the afternoon, students tend to be fatigued, impacting critical subjects such as math, sciences, and English.”

She indicated the current schedule also affects elective courses such as chef training, where afternoon classes predominantly involve cleanup rather than the hands-on cooking experience typically conducted before lunch. 

To address these challenges, Bentley proposes a revised schedule that includes a consistent block rotation throughout the week. This ensures that every class takes place in the morning at least twice a week, enhancing the learning potential. 

Bentley noted she has initiated a petition, garnering 200 signatures to date, with the aim of reaching 400 in support of the change.

During her presentation to PAC, the student said the current timetable is so confusing that pupils are coming to school not knowing what day it is (in the schedule). She pointed out that even the main office has to erect a sign to let students know what day it is. 

Under the previous timetable, students knew what day it was, and classes were shorter, which made it easier for pupils to focus, said Bentley, adding that classes are now 84 minutes long, which prompts young minds to wander to other things.

Bentley said she approached Principal Mike Hubick about changing the schedule next semester but he denied the request.

The student believes the new timetable that was established came from a unilateral decision without consultation with teachers or students last September. As a result, she submitted a notice of appeal to the principal and the district superintendent.

During question period, a parent asked Hubick why there was no meaningful discussion or negotiation with Bentley. “I told her the schedule is very complex and it couldn’t be changed this year. Staffing decisions had already been made,” Hubick replied.

One parent at the meeting said her child is proficient at writing but is struggling in math, noting her daughter is exhausted at the end of the day after the 84-minute classes. “She can’t concentrate for that long.”

The parent also lamented the loss of the “core block” where students could engage with teachers and get caught up in their work. “We (parents) were told this (self-schedule time) was long term; that it would last 10 to 15 years. I miss being able to tell my children to get help in that block and prepare for tests.”

The parent continued, asking why this block was taken away, and by whom. “When we grew up the (school) schedule was very simple,” she said.

A petition has been circulating at DTSS to change the timetable that some students find confusing.FILE PHOTO

A petition has been circulating at DTSS to change the timetable that some students find confusing.

Steve Wyer, assistant superintendent of schools, told the Pioneer that principals do their best to ensure that the interests of students, staff, and families are represented in the decisions they make.

“Often the principal has to weigh the needs of everyone in the school and make the best decision with the available information. These decisions rarely please everyone involved which is why ongoing communication and ongoing review is required to ensure best possible outcomes.”

Wyer noted there is a general research-based move across the province to ensure year-long programming in core academic subjects for students rather than the traditional semester courses lasting half the year. 

Hubick explained to the Pioneer that the job of establishing an educationally sound timetable is a very complex undertaking that must include regulatory and contractural obligations.

He said consultative steps were taken with teachers and staff that resulted in making two changes to the timetable, spurred by the following observations: existing student engagement levels in their studies; student attendance patterns; and course performance.

Hubick also noted that the Student Advisory Council met regularly to discuss matters of student concern. 

“I attended the meetings to raise questions and seek input on the same topics identified above from a student’s perspective.”

In addition, these topics were raised and discussed at Parent Advisory Council meetings, the principal pointed out.

Hubick said the input received and the relevant data “pointed clearly to a need to strategically adjust aspects of the organizational structure of the school.”


• Overall, regular, and punctual student attendance was and continues to be an area of concern in the school. In January 2023, at the end of the first semester, it was found that 58 per cent of students were absent from school more than 15 per cent of available instructional time.

• CORE time was not being used effectively by a very large number of students. “Some students did use this time effectively, but the majority did not.”

• The CORE block proved to be a time of the instructional day where large numbers of students left the school without approval.

• Student absenteeism was noticeably higher in blocks that were immediately before or immediately after CORE.

• Student absenteeism was noticeably more concentrated at the beginning of the day. One measure to address this included an adjustment to the timetable to simplify it. “This was also considered to support students who would benefit from a more consistent routine.”

In view of all this, two changes were made that came into effect in September 2023:

• The CORE block was removed and the time that had been allocated to CORE was distributed to the remaining four blocks. This resulted in an increase of eight minutes to the remaining blocks, which went from 75 to 83 minutes in length.

• The timetable was changed from a four-day rotating timetable to a simpler two-day repeating timetable that consists of two morning blocks that rotate and two afternoon blocks that rotate.

Hubick acknowledged that he has heard the following feedback about the new timetable: increasing the length of the blocks by eight minutes makes them too long; the same two courses landing at the end of the day is challenging because students and teachers are tired by that time of day; having the same blocks at the beginning of the day has made mornings more easily managed – some students have opted to have a spare at the beginning of the day while others have a spare at the end of the day to support a need to hold a part-time job; and teachers have indicated that having longer blocks supports longer lessons and a wider variety of activities within each lesson. “This seems to be particularly beneficial in labs, physical education, and times when students are engaged in project-based learning.”

Hubick said the current timetable allows for and makes scheduling of community-based programming possible.

The principal noted that many teachers are finding ways of intentionally building breaks into their lessons by either incorporating physical movement or multiple activities throughout the assigned time.  

“A simplified timetable has supported younger students as they transition to the high school,” the administrator added.

He also stated the lengthened break in the morning and the newly scheduled break in the afternoon provide students and staff time to socialize, attend to their needs and prepare for their next block.

Hubick told the Pioneer that scheduling decisions are made months in advance, therefore, “shifting on the fly is simply not possible.”

He said while many students are extremely successful, others face significant challenges in and out of school that impact engagement, attendance and performance. “The changes made were made with these needs in mind.”

As for Bentley’s appeal, Wyer was not in a position to comment as that is slated for review by the board of trustees.

The PAC executive commended Bentley for her presentation and agreed to table her request until they could review a report from school administration.