MHS Shakes Up Its Schedule With Focus Fridays

Tista Goswami, Features Page Director

As the 2020-2021 school year commences, a glaring schedule change has been implemented into the lives of MHS students and staff. A hybrid model incorporating both remote and in-person instruction has been designed, aiming for as much normalcy as possible. However, something that is certainly different is the introduction of an advisory program.

Coined as “Focus Fridays,” these days, which will be held twice a month, do not have allotted class time, however students will still be in the school building. On a given “Focus Friday,” students will be working independently in the morning hours (8-10 AM); after that, the day will be broken into five periods, one of which will be a student’s advisory group. When not in their advisory groups, students will have the opportunity to attend office hours with their teachers and club meetings, both of which will be virtual. 

Students of all grades have been assigned into an advisory group consisting of other students in their grade.“The purpose of these Focus Fridays is to create space and time for an advisory program as a high school,”  says Mr. Shansky, one of the committee members that has helped establish the advisory program, “An advisory is a place where a small group of students and a teacher or staff member work together to support students as people.  In the current moment, that feels really important.” In addition to teachers, in advisory groups for freshman, sophomores, and juniors, Caprice Advisors will be present for orientation purposes. However going forward, the role of Caprice Advisors in advisory groups is still in the works, according to Mr. Scioscia, who is also on the Advisory Committee.

In general, the teacher leading the group will follow a curriculum, consisting of various discussion points and topics. According to Sra. Acevedo, another committee member, “teachers will serve as moderators, modeling activities and encouraging all members to participate, contribute, and lead these activities and discussions actively and enthusiastically.” In general, these discussions and activities will vary in subject from grade-to-grade, in order to address the different needs of students in each grade level. “The discussions and activities will be a mix of meaningful and relevant topics that advisors bring to their advisories, but there will also be space for students to suggest and lead the focus on what they want to discuss in the group,” Shanksy adds. The core lessons of the program will be centered on various topics which can range from team-building to basic executive functioning skills, such as “soft skills” related to managing and organizing oneself in remote learning.

While these advisory groups are certainly new to the students of MHS, this is something other schools have implemented in the past. During this especially challenging time, the administration and select faculty members believe that the MHS community will be able to reap the benefits of such a program. “Students will have time to get to know and support each other as they learn new skills, which hopefully will help them in and out of school. Also they will have an opportunity to build a healthier, friendlier, and more inclusive school culture as they network with new schoolmates,” Acevedo continues. The advisory groups are also a good way for students to establish a good relationship and feel connected to both their peers and at least one adult in the school building. 

In the hybrid model, Focus Fridays will be held every other Friday, starting on September 25th. If the school returns to the remote model, the plan is to implement weekly advisory meetings.