A recent survey of the community showed overwhelming 88 percent support of early-release Fridays in the Powell school system. That in itself is “unheard of,” according to superintendent Jay Curtis, as we know that people are usually more divided on most decisions. As a result, the 4.5-day school week will be ushered in with strong community buy-in for the start of the 2018-19 school year.
When we look at the early-release Fridays, it’s not just a means of letting everyone out early to start the weekend. For students, getting out earlier gives them the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities without missing as much class time. For educators, there is a focus on extra time for professional development and improvement in attendance, an issue the district routinely struggles with and hopes to improve.
With this decision, educators can focus on their growth and on continuing to bring their best performance to the classroom. By moving the early releases from Wednesdays to Fridays, kids will be kept in class for the full day on Wednesday, when students are more likely to be present and focused. The new schedule will also allow for an additional six half-days of professional development. Of course, the focus is on creating a situation that is mutually beneficial to both students and teachers.
“The more we have kids in class, and the more we have their qualified teachers in front of them, we think the better our kids are going to do,” superintendent Curtis said at a recent school board meeting.
The 4.5-day schedule is a way to give students and their families more time to enjoy their extra-curricular activities. Many students and teachers miss time on Friday as it is. With the students out of the classroom, the development is focused on improving the teachers’ skills. This is divided between district, school and working time, rather than just an early release and constant meetings for educators. This allows for a focus on students’ weaker areas that could use improvement, as well as allowing for the creation of action plans to help those students.
“The number of kids gone on Fridays currently — and a lot of it is activity-based — is gigantic, so we’re automatically losing that instruction time for those kids, where we can increase instructional time for all kids by moving from that Wednesday idea to the Friday idea,” said Steve Lensegrav, a chemistry/physics teacher at Powell High School.
There is more than we see from a student or parent perspective about how much preparation goes into the day of a teacher. Extra time from these half-days can be utilized towards development, or in some cases the teachers will get the afternoon off. Everyone benefits from time off to recharge and unwind from a busy week of tests, assignments and projects, not to mention any extras relating to school-sponsored activities.
This decision wasn’t made lightly, and was made with community involvement and input from teachers and other school staff. It involves the effort of everyone and impacts everyone. Of course, it will take time to implement and work out the kinks in transitioning from early-release Wednesdays to early-release Fridays, but in due time, the change will show long-term benefits.