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St. John’s discusses future of Jan Plan

Serina Yan
Jan Plan would give students an easier transition from winter break—it is just a matter of figuring out how to implement it. Additional designing by Aleena Gilani.

Back in 2020, Upper School science teacher David Castillo looked forward to taking a break from teaching his usual biology and chemistry classes and instead exploring the First Amendment with his students for a few weeks.

Underclassmen in 2021 anticipated the initiation of “Jan Plan,” a program that would allow them to explore unconventional academic topics such as forensic science, sports management, screenwriting and welding during the first 2 weeks after Winter Break. But like many other activities such as sports and family get-togethers, Jan Plan was put on hold during the pandemic. Yet Jan Plan never came back.

The program was the brainchild of former Upper School head Hollis Amley, who left St. John’s in 2022.  Former English Teacher and Jan Plan coordinator Sarah Jane Keegan, who left at the end of 2021, was also a crucial part in developing the plan.  

Upper School Head Kevin Weatherill says the departure of both faculty members led to the program’s demise. 

“When you lose one [person], it’s tough,” said Kevin Weatherill, Head of Upper School. “When you lose both of them, you have to rethink it.” 

While Upper School administration was excited to implement Jan Plan, they understood that asking Weatherill to navigate it in his first year was unrealistic.

“I was in my first year when the program would have begun, and two key people in the development of the program were no longer here. I needed time to learn about St. John’s and its people before undertaking such a significant commitment,” Weatherill said.

Jan Plan would allow students to prepare for the new semester. Students could also explore interests outside of their typical courses, without the pressure of traditional schoolwork.

“It seems fun to take new classes I’ve never done before——to try new things instead of just going to school,” junior Cate Adams said.

On the other hand, some students felt that it would be easier to transition back to their classes by jumping right in.

“When you’re going back to school, you just need to throw yourself back into the fire,” junior Owen Sherrill said.

Similarly to students, teachers have conflicting opinions on Jan Plan. Some teachers find Jan Plan a great way to ease into the new year and enrich students’ education with interesting courses.

“The first week back from winter break is a bit rough, but if you had two weeks of stimulating yourself with something that wasn’t your normal academics, it might give a replenishing effect,” Castillo said. 

When Jan Plan was first announced, teachers dove into their interests outside of their regular subjects by creating unique courses, ranging from creating art using geometry to further studying the First Amendment. 

While some teachers found the addition of Jan Plan exciting, others found it taxing. The program would cause large amounts of stress for AP teachers as removing two weeks from the semester would significantly rush their regulated curriculum.

“Even losing a single day of teaching and content can be very stressful,” Upper School math teacher Alice Fogler (‘10) said. “Losing weeks would likely result in the loss of AP review time.” 

Jan Plan would have significantly changed the school year, but the idea is still alive. Administration is passionate about continuing to develop the plan—not as a vacation, but as a way to “break from some of the monotony of what St. John’s does really well,” Weatherill said.

At the moment, the administration sees Jan Plan as a worthwhile idea given the appropriate time to develop why and how to implement it.

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About the Contributors
Amina Khalil-Zegar
Amina Khalil-Zegar, Staff Writer
Amina Khalil-Zegar ('27) joined The Review in 2023 as a freshman. When she isn't trying to catch her breath on the track, she enjoys writing and rewatching "Funny Girl" for the seventh time.
Emily Yen
Emily Yen, Staff Writer
Emily Yen ('27) joined The Review in 2023 as a freshman. She enjoys constantly doodling during history, and she plays the piano.
Serina Yan
Serina Yan, Design Editor
Serina Yan ('25) joined The Review in 2021 as a freshman. Her favorite TV show is "Parks and Recreation" (but only seasons 3 to 7), and her favorite type of weather is when it’s cold but sunny.

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