Maximizing Flexibility with Multiple Class Schedules

Overview

As you are preparing for the start of the 2020-21 school year, you are likely facing  uncertainty about what the school year will look like. To account for that uncertainty, you may decide to prepare multiple schedules to account for different combinations of in-person and remote learning, and need Veracross to be as flexible as possible when it comes to assigning those schedules. This article outlines the Veracross recommendation for creating multiple schedules for the upcoming school year.

Distance Learning Strategies

Here are three distance learning strategies being considered by many Veracross schools:

1. Fully On-Campus: Normal school operation; all faculty & students are physically present.

2. Fully Remote: Virtual school operation; all faculty & students are remote.

3. Hybrid: A blend of on-campus & remote with several possible parameters:

  • Fixed: Predefined groups of faculty and/or students are designated as remote for extended periods of time; typically in half or full year increments.
  • As Needed: Individuals or small groups of faculty and/or students are designated as remote based on specific circumstances; typically reactionary rather than planned/regimented.
  • Platooning: Predefined groups of faculty and/or students alternate on-campus presence at regular intervals; length of intervals varies and typically is aligned with school type:
    • Grading Period Intervals: Alternating on-campus presence based on grading period; this is rare but might be considered by boarding schools with student populations who live a long distance from campus
    • Bi-Weekly Intervals: Two weeks on-campus, two weeks remote
    • Weekly Intervals: One week on-campus, one week remote
    • Rotation Day Intervals: Alternating on-campus presence based on rotation day, e.g.:
      • Week 1: Group A on-campus MWF, Group B on-campus TR
      • Week 2: Group A on-campus TR, Group B on-campus MWF

What are Other Schools Doing?

Here are some quick takeaways from what we learned via our July 2020 distance learning survey:

  • The majority of our schools intend to start the school year with as many students on-campus as possible, within safety guidelines.
  • Physical space requirements appear to be the safety guideline most affecting the return to campus plan for schools right now, making hybrid approaches the most popular.
  • Many state & local governments will announce their official reopening guidelines in mid-late July. The extent to which these guidelines will directly affect our schools is unknown. It is possible that schools will have to scrap certain aspects of their return to campus plan to align with these new guidelines.

Veracross Recommendations

Because of the number of variables involved, many of which are outside the control of our schools, we strongly advise a few things: 

  1. Simplify your return-to-campus plans as much as possible. 
  2. Maintain consistent class meeting times if you alternate between on-campus and remote learning.

Multiple Rotation Approach

Many schools expect to run different versions of a schedule throughout the course of the year, with the need to pivot to new schedules quickly as local COVID-19 conditions change. Rather than quickly rebuilding a schedule mid-year, Veracross recommends that you build multiple versions of your schedule during the summer so that you can switch to the new schedules as needed. 

To facilitate this process, create multiple rotations (one for each scenario/strategy) and prepare class schedules for each of the rotations. Then, throughout the year, you can determine when each strategy is used and switch between the class schedules as needed by switching rotations.

Getting Started

When preparing to use the multiple rotation approach to scheduling, as yourself:

  • What distance learning strategies must we be prepared to use next year?
  • Can we use our existing grading periods with these distance learning strategies? If not, what grading period changes will be needed? 
  • What rotations are needed for each distance learning strategy? 
    • Determine the pattern by which the classes meet. Each distinct pattern should be reflected in its own rotation. For example, a rotation where the school has two cohorts of students on campus separately for a week at a time may have a 10-day A/B week rotation.
    • How many cohorts of students will you have? Your rotation should be a multiple of that number, so if you have three cohort groups of students, a three, six, or nine-day rotation would be best. For two cohorts of students, a two-day or two-week rotation may be preferable.
  • How will classes be scheduled on each rotation - period or block scheduling? Create a visual of a few class schedules to confirm that the proposed block and rotation configuration matches your scheduling intentions. 

Initial Configuration Workflow

After taking into account the above considerations, follow this workflow to configure multiple class schedules:

  1. Reach out to your Veracross account manager to discuss your planned schedule changes. You will need to provide them with:
    • Confirmation of grading periods for the upcoming school year.
      Please refer to the timeline section below for deadlines.
    • A visual description of each version of the schedule that is needed for the upcoming year, outlining each separate rotation and block group need. 
  2. Work with your Veracross account manager to submit a request to create new rotation(s) and block group(s).
    Please refer to the timeline section below for deadlines.
  3. If necessary, submit a request to Veracross to reconfigure the scheduler tool for one of the new rotations.
    Please refer to the timeline section below for deadlines.
  4. Create primary schedule using the Veracross Scheduler tool, and commit to Axiom. Click here to read more about scheduling using the Veracross Scheduler.
  5. Manually create additional class schedules in Excel, using the spreadsheet template outlined in the Class Schedule Type data importer documentation.  We recommend creating a separate spreadsheet for each rotation's schedule. 
  6. Import the additional class schedules into Veracross using the Data Importer Tool.
  7. Once class schedules and enrollments are complete, the following Axiom queries can be used to try to identify scheduling conflicts:
    Possible Student Schedule Conflicts
    Possible Teacher Schedule Conflicts
    Possible Room Schedule Conflicts
  8. Determine which rotation will be used to start the school year and initialize the rotation calendar accordingly.

Midyear Configuration Workflow

Once classes have multiple schedules created, determine which rotation will be the starting rotation for the year. That rotation should be initialized on the rotation calendar, and any alternate block schedules applied. 

If, during the course of the year, you need to switch to a different rotation, submit a request to Veracross to re-initialize your calendar with the new rotation. Please allow for turnaround up to three business days prior to the start of the new rotation. 

Limitations

Though this approach will allow schools to have multiple versions of a schedule available for use, there are several limitations to be aware of:

  • All rotations must be on the same grading period; schools will not be able to switch between grading periods mid-year.
  • Classes cannot be scheduled on the default M-F rotation, however schools can request a separate COVID: M-F rotation in order to schedule on a normal week rotation.
  • Classes should not be scheduled to meet on the same day for multiple active rotations
  • The Scheduler tool can only be used to build one schedule configuration

Configuration Tips and Best Practices

  • Name your rotation days uniquely and clearly to avoid confusion when scheduling on multiple rotations.
  • Simplicity is key! A streamlined schedule will allow for more flexibility throughout the school year.
  • Since the Scheduler tool can only be used to build one schedule, it should be used to build the schedule that you expect to be the primary schedule for the year.

Timeline and Cost Requirements

Depending on the scope of the changes required, these changes may incur additional cost.

Though the majority of the configuration for this scheduling approach is done by you and not by Veracross, this approach still requires some changes to your scheduling structure. Given the large number of requests for new scheduling configurations, it is imperative that you request changes to your scheduling structure well in advance of the first day of school.

Expect the following timelines and plan accordingly to ensure that you have adequate time to complete scheduling before the start of the school year:

  • Grading Period Changes (2 week turnaround)
    • Must be submitted to Veracross for a feasibility study at least five weeks before the start of school, with the final request submitted by the school at least three weeks prior to the start of school.
  • New or Updated Rotations and Block Groups (5 business day turnaround)
    • Must be submitted to Veracross at least two weeks prior to the start of school.
  • Scheduler Reconfiguration and Initialization (5 business day turnaround)
    • Must be submitted to Veracross at least four weeks prior to the start of school.

Upcoming Product Development: Track On-Campus/Remote Status

In addition to the above recommendation for creating flexible scheduling, the Veracross product team will be building several enhancements to assist with the COVID-related difficulties of returning to campus. One of the primary developments will be the ability for you to track when students will be present on campus on a per-student enrollment basis, which in conjunction with the above scheduling strategy can assist with hybrid scheduling approaches. This new ability:

  • Will allow you to designate the presence status for students using a configuration as well as manage individual exceptions/corrections
  • Will retain a daily record of presence status for students that can be queried/reported on
  • Works with attendance to enable teachers to know which students are expected to be remote for that class session
  • Works with "Where is student now?"
  • Works with Daily Student Schedule
  • Works with Transportation (will mark students as "not expected" when remote)
  • Works with Student Logistics Requests (will disable non-applicable options when remote)