Officials discuss longer school day

Will eight periods benefit students more than seven?

Cedar Falls High School may switch to an eight-period school day next year. There are several options for how to accomplish this. The plan includes extending students’ days by 15 minutes and having three lunch shifts instead of four. Two different drafts include 46-minute periods and 45-minute periods each with five-minute passing periods. “In essence, we will still have a seven-period day for students spread out over eight periods,” Principal Dr. Rich Powers said.

There are three main reasons why an eight-period day will potentially be advantageous. “[The first is to] provide a system of enhancement and support for all students during the school day. Generally, no student would have eight classes. The two exceptions may be an ALPHA class or potentially nine weeks of marching band as the eighth class,” Powers said.

Another benefit of having eight-period days is the additional space that will be available for classes and labs during the day. “It opens up about 55 classrooms (all of our rooms for one extra period). Currently, our growth is limited by the space we have available in our seven period schedule,” Powers said. “We are projected to continue to increase in our student enrollment for the next ten years.”

The third benefit is with an increase in time, more opportunities will be available to students such as fitting more electives into their schedules. This has been difficult more recently because Iowa’s core academic requirements were increased a few years ago. With more periods in the day, more art classes could be offered, which is a plus for art department chair Lisa Klenske. “Hopefully it will take some of the overcrowding out of our art classes. It does present problems with storage because we do not have any more storage space for more projects,” Klenske said.

No doubt students will be affected by this change if implemented. “It will provide guaranteed support for all students. This could be for remedial help or enhanced opportunities inside the school day. The goal is for this support to begin when a student is dropped off by the bus to when they are picked up,” Powers said. The new schedule will also provide more flexibility. “A release can be removed to provide additional academic support as necessary,” Powers said. Special Needs Department Chair Jennifer Juhl thinks the change will be positive because it will provide more options for students. “The opportunity for sophomores to have a study hall will be beneficial,” Juhl said.

Teachers will feel the effects of the schedule change as well. “Some will likely teach an additional class, while others will have additional support time assigned in a structured environment such as a small study hall or academic lab,” Powers said. Each class time will be shortened to accommodate the extra period, which affects how much material teachers can cover in class. “With the 46-minute schedule, two minutes [shorter] doesn’t sound like much, but two minutes over the course of a 90-day schedule is almost four days [in time lost],” social studies department chair Charlie Blair-Broeker said. The plan currently is to begin school at 7:45 a.m. “[Having eight periods] might mean changing either the beginning or the end of the school day which might cost teachers planning time,” Blair-Broeker said.

English teacher Marguerite Demoss sees another hiccup with the proposal. ““The biggest problem I see with it is it flies in the face of research regarding teenagers. It’s a pretty much proven fact that teenagers learn better later in the day,” Demoss said.

According to Powers, it is likely that the eight-period day will replace the seven-period day next year. “We have to move forward with planning now since there is a lot of preparation work for scheduling,” Powers said.

Another change for next year concerns the professional development days that currently consume Tuesday mornings for staff. “We are looking at Monday for the late start professional development day next year to help improve the student experience. The change would provide four instruction days in a row most weeks without an interruption,” Powers said.

There will be no early bird classes offered. There will also likely be no more full schedule physical education exemptions since many students will not have full schedules. Students will maintain six or seven classes plus physical education per semester. Activity exemptions will still be available with a few adjustments.

However, not everything will be new next school year. The number of credits students need to graduate will remain the same, and the new schedule will not impact the number of student school days.

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