WEGO administration introduces change in schedule next year


Photo by Yearbook Staff

Students at WEGO work on a project during the 2021-22 school year. Next year will bring a change to the bell schedule.

By Karidja Monjolo, Managing Editor

Current and upcoming students may be surprised to learn about the new “class” at West Chicago Community High School starting in the fall of the 2022-2023 school year. In 2021, the school board approved a new class called Student Support Initiative, or Den Time, an idea several years in the making. 

According to AVID teacher Nick Kempski, one of four faculty members responsible for designing the curriculum for Den Time, “The curriculum will be different for each grade level, but it will focus on building community within the school, social and emotional learning, and academic support.  Two days a week will consist of lessons focused on community and SEL, and the other two days will be focused on academic support in other classes. The purpose of the Den is to help students connect to the school, work on strategies to promote positive social and emotional traits, and provide academic support so students do not fall behind in classes. All of the lessons are meant to be highly engaging and fun.” 

AVID teacher Jen Culbertson instructs students. Culbertson helped develop curriculum for the new Den Time. (Photo by Yearbook Staff)

Dr. Will Dwyer, principal at West Chicago Community High School, added that the class will serve as a kind of homeroom, giving students a fundamental understanding of themselves, an opportunity to gain knowledge about college and work toward the future, and time to do homework. 

“Two days a week are going to be structured study hall time or to get help in specific content areas. The others are going to be preset lessons around social and emotional wellbeing, school culture, college and career planning, and a variety of other things students need in order  to navigate high school. Freshman experiences look different from sophomore, junior and senior. And they’re getting it because this year and previous years we’ve seen an increase in the set of stress we’ve seen kids experience, this is a really structured and consistent way to respond to that,” said Dwyer.

To make room for the half-hour new dens that will take place every Tuesday-Friday, periods will be reduced to 46 minutes, and the bell schedule will change, though five-minute passing periods will remain in place. The class will be inserted after the third period of the day.  

“There will not be Den class on Monday because every Monday will be a late start day,” said Kempski.                 

Faculty will take on the role of Den Time or academic support teachers. Academic support teachers will help students who are struggling in particular classes. Most likely, they will work with previously identified students in a designated area, such as the LRC. 

According to Mary Howard, Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning, “Teachers will identify students in their own classes who would benefit from individual or small group time to meet with an English, math, science, or social studies teacher and do not have AVID or any other class where they get that opportunity. Teachers will log this request for Academic Support in PowerSchool, and the Academic Support teachers will each meet with approximately twenty students each per week.

The new bell schedule will be instituted in August 2022. (Photo by Nick Kempski)

Den Time teachers will be assigned a small class of students, and will guide those students through a series of lessons. On non-lesson days, students will be provided quiet work time, like a study hall. 

Teachers appear to be excited about the upcoming program.

“Back in the day, a million years ago, we used to have a homeroom situation, and I found it to be so wonderful in terms of community building, so I’m so excited for it to come back again. That opportunity to bond outside of an academic situation,” said English teacher Shannon Atkian-Sanchez.

When students are not participating in supervised study hall time, students will take part in structured lessons that are based on the CASEL standards.

“It really isn’t a class in the sense that you’re not getting a grade. It isn’t credit-bearing,” said Howard. 

However, the Den Time initiative will be required for all students, as WEGO feels the curriculum is important for all.

“Part of it is to continue to build relationships between kids that may not necessarily come across each other in their normal schedule in the day. We can all continue to improve on our social and emotional coping, and all those different pieces. I think there can be a lot of value in it if the kids will give it a chance,” said Howard. 

West Chicago Community High School has not yet promoted the upcoming changes to the schedule for the 2022-23 school year, but students who have heard about Den Time approach the change with mixed views. 

Freshman Daniel Guevara said, “The class description does sound just like AVID. It should be an elective, not something required. [But] it sounds like it could be helpful for some, so it should just be an elective so people who want to can join.”

While Howard understands why some students may initially regard Den Time with hesitation, “I think I’d ask them to reserve judgment until they actually have the experience,” said Howard.

SEL-based classes may be a trend in schools around the area. This semester, District 203 introduced a similar program as well. Naperville North’s The North Star newspaper wrote an article at the beginning of the semester detailing the high school’s version of the new program, which is also dedicated to providing students with academic support and personal growth. Classes at Naperville North and Central were put into place on January 6, but there have been no updates as to the program’s efficacy.

Time will tell whether Den Time at West Chicago Community High School is successful as well: for now, all Wildcats can do is prepare for a change next year, and await more details.