Calendar change may challenge staff, help students
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The winds of change will blow through Elk Grove next year. With several changes to the school schedule and calendar, both students and staff are going to adjust this upcoming school year, though not quite as much as other schools in the district.
“The changes for students here at Elk Grove are really much smaller than the rest of the district,” said math teacher Ryan O’Connor, member of the District 214 Calendar Committee.
Chief among the changes are the new school day start times, end times, and having finals before winter break. The school day will now start at 8:15 and end at 3:10, with 48 minute periods except for eighth period, which will be 50 minutes long to account for announcements being at the end of the day to “include any after school athletic/ activity changes.” Passing periods will be reduced to four minutes long.
As for finals before winter break, the change came with high interest. A survey was sent to students, parents, staff, and community members which the district took into account.
However, there was difficulty in that because if you “just take them beforehand,” leaving the rest of the calendar unchanged, “second semester would be longer than first semester,” according to O’Connor.
“So for semester classes it would certainly be unfair, and some of the schools in the district are on block schedules where you might only have math first semester or second semester,” said O’Connor, “So we had to try and get it as close to having the same number of days both first semester and second semester.”
To do that, the school year will now start earlier and end earlier, moving the calendar “up about a week or so.”
As for the reasoning behind the need for all these changes, there were several motivating factors.
“First, with respect to the bell
schedule,” O’Connor said, “The changes in bell schedule (districtwide) came based upon research showing that students that get a little bit more sleep in the morning perform better in school.”
Because of that, there was a large push in this district and others to begin the school day later in the day. The hard part there, though, was that by pushing the end time back, extracurricular activities were affected.
The calendar changes were influenced by a slightly more obvious factor. The biggest factor there was to get finals out of the way before break so that “when students had winter break they could have a true break,” and be able to come back from break with a “clean, fresh slate.”
Continually, there are of course multiple pros and cons to these changes, and O’Connor suggests that overall they seem to be about equal.
“I think one thing is with the four minute passing periods students are certainly going to have to hustle to class,” said O’Connor, “Not only that, but you need a breather in between classes sometimes, too, so running into class at the last minute, sitting down and then having to get started right away will be a challenge.”
To adjust, O’Connor believes “both students and staff are going to have to help with those transition times.”
With regard to the shifting of the start and end date of the school year, O’Connor believes the positive outweighs the negative. Starting school the second week of August is “earlier than typical,” as well as being “vacation time for a lot of families,” O’Connor said.
“On the tail end [of the school year], though, having the final exams before winter break I think is going to allow students to have a focal point,” said O’Connor, “And when they finish they can go home and they can truly enjoy their winter break where they’re not worried about whether or not
they should be doing work. Everything’s behind them.”
Additionally, ending the school year earlier, should “open opportunities for students that want summer jobs,” said O’Connor. Students can do “summer camps, sports camps, activities and things like that” a little earlier on than they usually could.
Furthermore, the general reaction from staff members is overall positive as well.
“I’m overall happy with the new calendar changes,” said Italian teacher Anna Glinski. “Even though this summer will be short, I think having finals before Christmas break is for the best. The actual timing of each day isn’t too big of a change for EG.”
Glinski will, however, “miss Thursday being on a different schedule” because she likes “one day a week being a little different just to change it up.”
For math teacher Midge Snow, the changes “won’t have a big impact.” The report time for teachers will be earlier, but Snow gets to school early anyway, so she’s “fine with that change.” She also feels it’ll be nice “to get out a little earlier” every day.
“I am in favor of the benefits to students,” said Snow. “Starting the school day a little later and getting out earlier will be good for busy students who need their sleep and extra time for extracurriculars, jobs, homework time and time with their families and friends.
I think it’s good to limit the amount of time kids spend meeting with teams and clubs to achieve a healthy balance of their time,” Snow said.
Social science teacher Lindsay Bucciarelli isn’t so sure about the changes, stating that she “like[s] the new school calendar” but doesn’t know for sure about the schedule changes yet.
“The staff has not received a lot of information yet about our schedule so
the unknown is always a little scary,” said Bucciarelli. “All in all though, I think it will be great and advantageous for a lot of reasons.”
English teacher Bonnie Kale has one specific concern, however.
“It will be interesting to see how the Fine Arts schedule will adjust to accommodate the new schedule,” said Kale, “Between concerts and performances, Fine Arts has a very tight and particular schedule we stick to in order to reduce the number of conflicts for kids, so all the Fine Arts sponsors and coordinators will have to spend time figuring out how to adjust performances to fit the new calendar.”
Assistant Principal Robert Murphy feels that the changes do make a lot of sense. Murphy likes that the committee was able to “really lose zero instructional time.”
“So they move from 50 to 48 minutes, so they’re cutting two minutes out of every day, so they’re cutting ten minutes out of a week,” said Murphy. “But, we already cut seven minutes out of a class period because of Thursday, so you’re really only losing three minutes of instruction time per week.”
In regards to the shortened passing periods, Murphy thinks it’s a good thing because he believes “kids need a little more urgency.”
“With the fact that we don’t have to go to our lockers as much and go get books, I think makes it easier to go from class to class in four minutes,” Murphy said. “I do know that there’s plenty of other schools that operate on four minute passing periods and do so successfully.”
Furthermore, in Murphy’s opinion “getting out of school at 3:10 versus getting out of school at 3:30” means that sports practices, activities and theatre practices can all start earlier.
“You can get people home 20 minutes early, maybe even a half hour earlier because you’re starting so much earlier,” said Murphy.
Evidently, the general consensus is that the upcoming changes are mostly for the better. It will take a bit of adjusting for students and staff alike here at Elk Grove. Whether the changes result in a net positive can’t really be known until they are implemented, but there is cause to be optimistic.