O ne upside to this pandemic, which forced isolation, is that it happened during the age of constant connectivity. This allowed school districts to shift to online learning, where students and teachers could still interact daily despite never being in the same room.
But as any student or educator will say, it is not the same. There is absolutely no substitution for in-person classroom instruction.
School districts officials do not yet know what education will look like in the fall, though their hopes remain high that students and teachers will physically return to campuses. But as it seems imminent the virus will still linger into August and beyond, requiring contingency plans, such as extra time to work with throughout the school day, seems a reasonable safety net to have.
That is some of the reasoning behind Brazosport ISD adding 30 minutes to its school days for the 2020-21 school year. This won’t make students’ days much different than those in surrounding districts.
“Our current school day is only 7 1/2 hours,” Superintendent Danny Massey said. “Surrounding districts were already going 15 to 20 minutes longer than we were, and so now with the additional 30 minutes, we’ll be going a little longer than the surrounding districts.”
The district met with a group of 35 teachers to gather feedback about the idea, and they were in favor and encouraged about addressing potential learning gaps wrought by the months of virtual learning, Massey said.
While parents, teachers and officials have done their best to keep students up to date on curriculum and reading during the pandemic, it wasn’t the top priority. Keeping students safe and minimizing stress from the traumatic experience was more important. This is why most districts had some form of accountability system but did not give regular grades or hold students to standards as high as they used during normal times.
This means they will inevitably be a bit behind when next the school year begins. Brazosport ISD teachers will have more time to identify and close these gaps with an extra 30 minutes in their day.
If one student has an extremely hard time with a specific math formula, the extra time means teachers won’t have to think twice about dedicating 10 minutes to help that student understand it, which can make all the difference.
The extended school day will also provide options in the case students are not able to attend school in person five days a week next school year.
Parents worry this long of a school day will leave their children exhausted and hungry when they get home in the afternoon. This is a valid concern, and Massey said breaks will be factored in, especially for young children to play, which is another important aspect of learning.
The district will likely adjust snacks and lunch times to make sure students have proper nutrition throughout the day, which is always a top priority for the district.
Adding 30 minutes to the school day is a perfectly reasonable solution and other districts will likely follow suit in some form.