Greta Lawler ’23
After the roaring success of the past year’s experiment with “no passing time,” where one class starts at the same time the next one begins, Academic Dean Jen Smith ’97 P ’23, ’24 has announced plans to expand the novel scheduling element even further. Beginning in Fall 2022, Mercersburg Academy will officially adopt “negative passing time” in which, for example, the first afternoon class will end promptly at 1:55pm, while the next class will begin at 1:50pm.
Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25, ’27, ’31 said, “I’m really happy that we can reward our students for their hard work, character, and development of community while learning to balance independence with interdependence and individual humility with collective pride by helping them get more time out of their day with small changes like this.” The introduction of negative passing time will allow the school day to end at 3:05, rather than 3:10.
Dean of Curricular Innovation John David Bennett P ’12, ’19, ’24 said, “This is by far the most exciting, experiential policy the school has ever attempted. We truly believe it will revolutionize education and do wonders for student time! Don’t forget, the time for the future is now.”
So far, community response has been mostly positive. One student said, “I love how this policy gives me so much autonomy. Every day I’ll get to decide whether to walk out of one class early or show up to the other five minutes late.” Bennett, standing nearby, smiled approvingly at the student’s use of the word autonomy.
A ninth grade student said, “I think our administration is really smart. I’m super afraid of authority so being forced to break the rules everyday will lead to a lot of personal growth.”
Not everyone is convinced of the benefits of the planned change. Some teachers are pushing back against the idea, citing the difficulty of accurately taking attendance or even beginning class. History teacher David Bell P ’17, ’18 said, “I just don’t know what to do. I’m going to have to interrupt my first class to get up and open the door at 1:45 and then get up and close it again at 1:50, and then I’ll have to mark everyone in my next class late. It just seems like a nonsensical idea.” In response, Board of Regents President Stacie Lissette ’85, P ’14, ’14, ’17, ’23 said, “OK Boomer.”
Depending on the success of this next experiment, Bell predicts passing time might become negativer and negativer, though he doubts passing time would surpass negative 15 to 30 minutes. “At that point,” he said, “students may start to wonder where all the time is going.”