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The Disadvantages of Double Shift Schedules in Overcrowded US High Schools

by Susan Sherwood

Double shift schedules have been introduced in some high schools due to overcrowding. This is not a new phenomenon, however; one West Virginia high school resorted to double shifts as early as 1930. When school districts cannot raise the funds to expand their campuses, they sometimes choose to split and shorten the school day. Although this can alleviate some financial stress, several problems are associated with double shifts.

Shortened Class Time

In order to accommodate all students, the entire school day needs to begin earlier and end later. Even with this, class time is shorter. Students spend less time on tasks simply because they are in the building for fewer hours. For example, when two high schools in Washington State merged into one building, each section had 4 1/2 hours of school on Monday and attended full day sessions two more days during the week. If the school does not have sufficient contact hours with students, they may lose their accreditation from their state. This poses potential problems for seniors; most colleges require new students to have a diploma from an accredited high school.

Extra-Curriculuar Issues

If students are attending school at different times, this raises problems for extra-curricular activities. An already over-burden building may not have room for non-academic activities. If there is room, sounds from an activity, such as music, may disturb classes. Attendance is an issue, as well. Administrators find it a real challenge to schedule groups when everyone interested is free. In addition, teachers who coach teams or supervise organizations could be tied up due to the double sessions.

Problems for Teachers

Though students experience difficulties with double shift scheduling in high school, teachers are challenged, as well. Some instructors may need to teach both shifts in order to reach all students, which can be exhausting. Teachers will need to develop new ways to present material in a shorter period of time if they want to maintain the same quality of education. To fit all activities in, teachers and students must stick to strict time schedules, which can lead to tension and frustration. Less time will be available for exploring student interests and supplementary topics.

Other Issues

Double-shift schedules affect the wider community, as well. They can complicate family's transportation plans because of nonstandard extracurricular schedules. Transportation costs for the school district rise, since buses have to pick up students twice a day. A late schedule could impact students' after-school jobs. In addition, schools need to make room for more than just student bodies. The availability of lockers becomes an issue, especially if some students need to share a locker. Also, if teachers have to share a classroom, instructors will need other places to work when their rooms are occupied.

About the Author

Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.

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