In past years, South used a half-day schedule that consisted of seven 19-minute periods with seven minutes of passing time in between. Concerns over low student attendance, teachers having limited time with their students and an entire 49 minutes spent in passing time led a board of administrators and teacher leaders to create a new structure for half-days according to Deputy Superintendent for Educational Services Jon Dean.
This new schedule had students attend their first three classes on the Nov. 21 half day, and their next four hours on the Dec. 5 half day. Although there were major issues with the structure of the half-day system used in the past, the new half-day format solved few problems and created more.
One of the biggest issues of the new half-day schedule is that despite having more time with their students, many teachers decided against teaching new material. This is because most teachers have multiple hours of the same course dispersed throughout the day.
Continuing with their lessons on the half-day would leave their morning courses ahead of their afternoon classes for almost two weeks. This would have doubled teachers’ workloads until the next half day. With the old schedule, teachers were at least meeting with all of their students so that no class was ahead of another.
In addition, some Advanced Placement (AP) teachers struggled more than others to keep different hours at the same place in their lessons and to prevent one hour from getting farther ahead. Teachers of AP courses already find it difficult to finish course material in a timely manner, and having two half days puts them further behind. For example, one class of AP Chemistry students had to watch a PenCast from home over Thanksgiving Break because they were not present for the lesson.
Some teachers, such as social studies teacher Christine Norris, noticed the classes on the three period half-day were too long for students. Because students are accustomed to the 49-minute class period, it became more difficult for them to focus when that time increased. This is obviously not a problem on the former 19-minute class period schedule.
Also, problems with student absences were unsolved with the new half-day schedule. The half-day before Thanksgiving Break last year, which used the seven period schedule, had 413 absences during second hour compared to this year, which had 473 absences. Tardies also increased from two to 14.
This clearly shows that the new half-day schedule not only failed to fix the low attendance rate, but also created more absences and tardies. This is because it is easier for students to miss three or four classes rather than seven.
Although it seems there is no completely effective way to structure a half-day, the schedule used in previous years was more efficient. High school teachers should also have more of a voice in making scheduling changes because they will ultimately be the ones affected.
It is commendable that Dean said a survey will be used to determine the view of the half-day schedule, and that these results will be used in creating future school calendars.