These are unprecedented times for public education, in which the current reality facing our Brazosport ISD team is that our students will be affected due to schools being closed for the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to add 30 minutes to the current school day to Brazosport ISD campuses was done as one strategy to better support student learning for the 2020-2021 school year.
BISD is preparing for a continuum of learning models for next school year, and the additional minutes supports these models.
The first learning model is schools opening with no restrictions, allowing 100 percent face-to-face instruction. In addition to the face-to-face instruction, we would provide online instruction for students whose parents do not feel comfortable sending their student to school yet or for students who need to stay home for health reasons.
The additional half hour will allow our staff more time for intervention, enrichment, social emotional learning, and lesson extensions. This will address student needs from being out of school for so long due to the coronavirus pandemic. We know that this time is most effective during the school day for all students.
We are cognizant that for our youngest of students, this could seem like a long school day. The minutes will not only be used for additional reading instruction and activities, but for more recess and playtime. Play is something that is essential to development, but is often cut short due to numerous standards required to guarantee grade level readiness.
Our campus principals are extremely appreciative for the additional time and are diligently creating a master schedule that is developmentally responsive to meet the diverse needs of all of our students.
Our high schools, for example, have worked with their master schedules to incorporate intervention/enrichment periods called Anchor Time or Pride Time during the school day. Our high school teachers value this time and desire to incorporate it every day. Under the current school times, it was not reasonable to have these opportunities every day because of the shortening of the class periods it required.
The additional minutes will allow our high schools to have intervention/enrichment time embedded daily. Not only will this provide more time for intervention, but more time for student organizations to meet during the school day and for students to complete homework with trained professionals’ guidance. Students also value this extra time in their electives of choice, such as robotics, welding, band and more.
The additional minutes will better support a hybrid instructional model of both face-to-face and remote learning. This would happen if we were ordered to limit the number of students in school at one time to maintain social distancing. Students may be on an alternating or staggered schedule, where they are at school on certain days or times and remote learning from home certain days. The additional 30 minutes would be beneficial and maximize learning for the days students are at school.
The additional minutes would prove beneficial in preparing for sporadic individual campus or district closures due to students or staff contracting coronavirus or large numbers of students and staff required to be quarantined at home. It makes the most of the days for students while at school. The additional half hour would give campuses more than 14 extra days instead of the current two days built into the current school calendar for inclement weather and/or other emergencies.
The Texas Education Agency has pushed out a year-round school calendar that would require being in school for twelve months with two weeks out of school after every six weeks. While I understand the justification, there are many changes to factor in to implement a year round calendar. There is enough uncertainty with what learning may look like next school year. Our intention is to at least provide a consistent school calendar that students, staff, and parents are familiar with.
Surrounding school districts’ school days are currently 10-20 minutes longer than our current school day. Our decision was not on a whim, but with thoughtful input from our teachers and leaders. We believe the additional school day minutes benefit our students in preparing for a continuum of different learning models for next school year.
We stand amply prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that our students continue to learn at high levels to be future ready.