19th Avenue


At CAIS, we have four fundamental resources at our disposal to support us in our mission to embrace Chinese, become our best selves, and contribute to a better world. Those resources are, in no particular order, time, space, people, and money. Our move to the 19th Avenue campus has challenged us to reimagine how we deploy our resources in our new, forever home so that we may better realize our mission. Today, I want to talk about the precious resource of time.

Head of School Jeff Bissell advises clicking here for musical accompaniment to this month’s lead article on the improvements that the new schedule for 2024-2025 makes for students. Following this issue, our monthly newsletter will be replaced by shorter, more frequent messages throughout the summer sharing quick updates on the campus and campaign progress.

If you do the math, you will reach the rather surprising (and often reproduced) conclusion that children spend only between 14 and 15 percent of their time in school between preschool and 12th grade. The implications of this are obvious; we need to use our precious time during the school day thoughtfully and efficiently. It is a limited resource.

With all this in mind, CAIS began the process of reimagining our school schedule more than two years ago. We needed to merge three separate campuses, each with its own spaces, schedules, and staff, into one campus with new and different (and way better) facilities. This also gave us the opportunity to re-examine and decide what was truly important to our school so that we could best use what time we have to support those decisions.

What do you do when you face a project this large? Hire a consultant, of course. In April 2022, our consultant visited CAIS, touring the new campus and meeting with teams of students and staff, and then facilitating a day-long workshop with the entire CAIS faculty to develop high-level priorities for a new way to use time and space in our new campus. Over the next two years, various configurations of people worked elbow to elbow in an effort to transform those priorities into viable, concrete bits of time and space through which Firedragon bodies of all shapes and sizes could gracefully flow. The result is a master scheduling spreadsheet document with 63 (sixty-three) tabs and a level of detail reflecting the conscientiousness with which we characteristically tackle challenges at CAIS. Here are the highlights:

Six Day Rotation

With three divisions coming together on the same campus, we all need to be in sync to assist with greater ease in scheduling facilities, staff, and cross-division or even all-school events. We can achieve this with a schedule that repeats every six school days. We are calling this our JIA YOU (i.e., 加油 or “fire up!”), with one letter for each day. By assigning all school days a letter before the beginning of the school year, we also avoid impacting Friday or Monday instruction during federal holidays and long weekends. Jia you!

Extended Instructional Blocks and Fewer Transitions in K-5

Longer blocks of instruction (which we have enjoyed for years at the Middle School) allow for deeper, uninterrupted learning. Longer blocks also allow for greater differentiation in instruction according to individual student needs. With longer blocks of focused time, students will experience fewer transitions and a less fragmented day, contributing to an overall reduction in stress.

Intensive Arts Instruction

Rather than having one music and movement class and one studio art class per week, students will have a single intensive arts class every other day for three JIAYOU cycles before switching to a different arts intensive class. (For example, in Lower School, students would have an art class with Ms. Taylor every other day for 3 JIAYOU cycles and switch to a music class with Zhou Laoshi for the next 3 cycles.) Some of you may remember a similar arrangement during 2020-2021, the pandemic year with small cohorts. This structure will enable deeper study and more cohesive projects within the arts, stronger relationships between teachers and students, and more opportunities for curricular integration between the arts and other disciplines. The Preschool approach will remain unchanged, with students having exposure to both studio art and music and movement every week.

Increased PE and Outdoor Time

Physical Education will meet more frequently with the new JIAYOU schedule at 19th Avenue. We have hired an additional PE teacher to accommodate the extra PE classes. This change mirrors the process of developing a PE and Sports Philosophy that is aligned with the CAIS mission and core values, a process that has engaged a parent and faculty task force throughout the current school year. Look for the new CAIS PE and Sports Philosophy to be rolled out at the beginning of the new school year. Of course, all of this has been made possible by our new Gymnasium, exercise room, performing arts studio, and acres of outdoor playground space.

Teacher Collaboration and Planning Time

The quality of student learning is directly related to the time and energy teachers are able to place on collaborating and planning with their colleagues. At CAIS, this is particularly true as teachers collaborate across languages, ensuring coherence across our bilingual curriculum. The new schedule takes advantage of the time that students are at recess and specialist classes, or at the end of the day, to allow teachers the time to collaborate more frequently and for longer periods of time over language and discipline.

Building Mandarin Agency in K-5

Piloted this year, and continuing in 2024-25, each day that K-5 students are in Mandarin class will end with a short, independent learning period. During this time they can work on Chinese writing homework. This has helped students develop agency and time/self-management while teachers and TAs are available to provide differentiated assistance.