20 minutes to be added to school day

Change will be implemented in 2023-2024 school year

During the March 9 school board meeting, superintendent Ms. Diane Workman, presented the high school administration’s proposal for the use of the additional 20 minutes, which will be added to the school day, beginning with the 2023-2024 school year. Adding time to the school day stemmed from the 2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the Freedom Area School Board and the Freedom Area Education Association. Numerous plans from administrators and teachers for how to use the additional time have been discussed and considered in the time since the CBA was signed; however, talks have ramped up since October 2022, and the current iteration of the plan was shared with faculty and staff on March 10.

This new schedule will have the middle and high school student day starting at 7:40 a.m. and ending at 2:40 p.m., as opposed to the current start and end times of 7:50 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. According to the proposal, this is a tentative schedule that will be dependent on the availability of transportation and busing. 

“My plan and my goals are pretty similar to what PLT [Personalized Learning Time] looks like right now. I want it to be a meaningful time. I think for some students, PLT is meaningful now, but for some students, it is not — so, increasing productivity of students, during that PLT time,” high school principal Steven Mott said. 

For high school, the 20 minutes are going to be added to PLT — the last period in the school day, traditionally reserved for students to get help from teachers, work on assignments and attend student club meetings. The proposed change will extend PLT to 45 minutes, and the time will be used in several new ways, the first significant change the period has seen since its inception in 2013, when it was known as Academic Assistance Period (AAP). One such change is that teachers will be assigned to a PLT with another teacher, so that they are able to participate in department meetings, which will now take place weekly. The math department will meet every Monday, the English department will meet on Tuesdays, the science department will meet on Wednesdays, the social studies department will meet on Thursdays and the unified arts 

department will meet on Fridays. The administration’s goal for these changes is to create a more structured environment during PLT.

PLT, in its current form, leaves the responsibility for completing assignments up to the students and allows them to complete work at their own pace and discretion. The issue, according to Mott, lies in the way that many of the students who need help fail to effectively use the time provided. The administration hopes that the new PLT structure will address these issues. Students’ PLT grades will be determined by the work accomplished within the 45 minutes provided, and they will be required to submit weekly academic goals and current grades to their PLT teachers. If a teacher asks for a student to attend their PLT, students will be required to do so, or the administrators will consider it a missed class and address it accordingly. The administration also hopes to cut down on the number of students in the hallways. 

According to Mott, some changes were proposed in hopes of helping students to improve their grades and help them pass specific classes and assessments. The new structure includes scheduled intervention and remediation time for students who have failed the Keystone exams, with teachers from the math, English, and science departments responsible for administering the extra help one day per department, weekly. Anyone who earned a rating of less than “Proficient” will be required to attend these remediation sessions. 

Currently, student clubs meet every Tuesday through Friday during PLT. In the new plan, club meetings will be limited to Mondays for sponsors in the science, social students, unified arts departments, and Fridays for sponsors in the math and English departments. Teachers who sponsor more than one club will have to choose between holding fewer meetings for existing clubs or combining clubs to meet more frequently.

According to Mott, while the time is scheduled to be added to PLT, the plan is not completely finished. 

“As far as the clubs, is it entirely necessary for math department to only hold clubs on one day, science club on the other days? I’m going to continue to look at that and just base it off of how many clubs each teacher has — how many times they meet with each club,” Mott said. 

According to Mott, several details have yet to be finalized with this proposal, which he says may still be modified as needed. At the time of this publication, the proposal has not been shared with the student body writ large.

“I think that [discussing the plan with the students] would be rolled out next year. I think, right now, we’re continuing to move towards the end of the school year, and this plan isn’t finalized other than what has already been provided,” Mott said.