The Falconer

First Weeks Spread School Counselors Thin

Zachary Stewart, Staff Writer

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The beginning of the school year greeted the school counselors with an onslaught of paperwork and deadlines that were sometimes quite rigid. Many students do not know, or fully appreciate, the range of responsibilities that fall under the umbrella of school counselors and the amount of work that goes into just the first few weeks of school.

Scheduling was one of the main tasks that counselors faced, an aspect of which is organizing the classes students take and reviewing them.

“We print out each student’s transcript and make sure everyone has all their graduation requirements, no one is repeating a course, etc. to ensure everyone is scheduled properly, and we do all this in the first two weeks,” said Rachel Webb, M-Z upperclassmen counselor.

Another component of scheduling is processing all the add/drop forms that are submitted, which contain requests for class changes so that students are able to tailor their schedules to their preferences. While beneficial, the forms are a huge undertaking, due in part to the sheer number that come in — and the mere six day window for completion.

“I’d say we printed about 500 add/drop forms at first and then had to print more,” said Webb. “Most came from juniors and seniors because they have more flexibility in their schedules.

On top of keeping up with add/drop forms, Webb was also in charge of coordinating Dual Enrollment classes that are offered through Lord Fairfax Community College. Entrance exams for students that are new to DE classes and class payments from all participating students had to be processed and delivered to LFCC as quickly as possible.

Eric Schneider, A-L upperclassmen counselor, faced a similar predicament. Being in charge of online courses through Apex, he had to set up student accounts, create their usernames and passwords, and send them to students so they’d be able to access their classes…in addition to going through his share of the add/drop forms, as well as training the new freshman counselor, Nicole Yoder.

“For the first weeks, I was probably putting in between 5-6 hours after school in order to get everything done and not fall behind,” said Schneider. “I also worked with Ms. Yoder answering any questions she may have. Last year was my first year ‘in the field’ so I totally understand the adjustment she has to go through.”

After coming to Central from Turner Ashby, Yoder began her first year in school counseling. While transitioning schools and positions can be difficult, she says her knack for computer work and ability to process it quickly, with help from the guidance staff, has made her switch very smooth.

“Aside from scheduling, part of my job is helping the freshman adjust to high school and making sure their needs are taken care of, and since I’m new, a big part of that is getting to know them and learning what I can about the class,” said Yoder.

The intensity of the first weeks has left some students wondering why the schedules aren’t given to students sooner, leaving the counselors more time to deal with schedule changes. The majority of schedules are handed out for the first time at Open House, which occurs only four days before the start of school.

“Of course, the sooner we can get them out, the better,” said Schneider who went on to explain the difficulties in doing so. When asked about mailing class line-ups earlier in the summer he said that often times, schedules aren’t completely put together before Open House. Additionally, it’s expensive to mail each student their information, and he said the prospect of reduced difficulty for the guidance counselors didn’t justify spending the necessary money on postage and printing.

“We keep student’s best interests in mind, and in the long run, the money saved could be better used for other resources which would surely be helpful,” said Schneider.

So, what can be done to help distribute the workload? Last year’s addition of course offerings to the back of add/drop forms has been said to make it easier. The counselors have discussed a variety options for the future, from holding Open House earlier in the summer to making schedules readily available on the first day for those who didn’t get theirs beforehand.

“Having the knowledge that we gained from last year has made the process much easier,” said Webb, “I feel like we’ve really come together as a team, and are really clicking and working very well together, which made the transition very nice, and a lot smoother.”

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First Weeks Spread School Counselors Thin