Longer school day proposed for next year

A recent draft for the Cedar Falls School District’s secondary education, by recommendation from the Professional Development Team and input from the building level, proposes changes for next school year’s daily schedule.

If approved by the school board, classes will begin at 7:45 a.m., 15 minutes earlier than this year, and let out at 2:55 p.m.. Tuesdays will still be late start days for students with class beginning at 9:30 a.m., rather than this year’s 9:35 a.m., and ending at 2:55 pm.

One reason that additional school time is being added is because the late start Tuesdays implemented this year have reduced learning time. Cedar Falls High School Principal Dr. Rich Powers said, “Students have lost instructional time with the late start Tuesdays. Intervention Time is a way to add back some of that time.”

Intervention Time will be 30 minutes and will replace Related Class Time (RCT). Its goal is to make help more available for students in addition to before and after school options. Fourth hour classes will be somewhat lengthened to compensate for class, lunch shifts and Intervention Time. This support time will mean different things to different students.
Another reason that the school schedule will change is for the ability of the buses to be on time. “Routes have been added, and it is becoming longer and harder for us to meet travel times,” Powers said.

Other options were considered to fix this problem, including changing the schedule to begin classes at 9 a.m. at the high school and earlier at the elementaries. “That would be a big change for secondary staff and students. Think about everything being an hour later such as athletics and travel times to activities,” Powers said. Cedar Falls High School competes with Dubuque and Iowa City teams, with competitions or games often starting at four. With the school day being pushed back an hour later, getting to these places to compete would cost students to lose a lot of class time.

Besides this, there is a new superintendent coming to the district next year. “We didn’t want to have significant changes this year just to have more next year,” Powers said.

Intervention Time will be across all departments and will establish where the support occurs. For example, half of the building during a lunch shift will be in Intervention Time. This way if students needs help in subjects, they can sign out and go talk to teachers in the departments, and there should always be someone available.

“Our goal is for students to be able to have greater freedom as they meet all of their obligations. It is our responsibility to provide the additional support,” Powers said. For students not struggling in any school subjects, the Intervention Time can be used as a study hall or it can be used to create opportunities students may not otherwise fit in such as open art studio.

Teacher Jennifer Juhl said two perks of Intervention Time are that students will have the opportunity to get their work done during school, and students will play a more active role in their learning and advocating for themselves. “Teachers will also need to play a more active role in responding to students who didn’t learn a concept or need more assistance. This will involve teachers working together to find what works and doesn’t work for an individual student.  Providing this support for students is a school-wide responsibility,” Juhl said. “I would like to see the committee build in some incentives and enrichment activities for students that don’t have any missing work and have good grades.”

Intervention Time will offer the opportunity for students to receive help when they need it. Judy Timmins, head of the English Department, said, “Teachers will be available to reteach a skill, clarify an assignment, help a student catch up and more.”

The present structure does not always allow for teachers and students to meet within a school day. “This Intervention Time can help students to be more successful as they learn,” Timmins said.

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