By Maya Brown and Sasha Podzorov
A school committee has started exploring parent concerns and additional scheduling models to move from an eight to a nine-period school day at Alfred G. Prodell Middle School, Superintendent Gerard Poole said on Feb. 4.
The school district held a parent meeting about the schedule change for students, faculty and staff, going from an 8:23 a.m. to a 7:20 a.m. start.
“I have no problem with extending the day, just not so much at the beginning of the day,” Ashley Hadjoglou, a parent of a 4th grader from Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, said. “It would be very difficult for many students to wake up for and could have a negative impact on their health.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2018 that early school start times are one of the reasons that adolescents do not get enough sleep and recommend that middle and high schools start at 8:30 am or later.
“Students at that age are going to bed at a reasonable time because they don’t have some of the responsibilities that older students have,” James Barnes, principal of Chestnut Ridge Middle School in Washington Township, N.J., said. Barnes, however, believes that 7:20 a.m. could be a little early for middle schoolers.
With the proposed schedule change, students would explore more elective courses in a mandatory nine-period day, opening up scheduling slots for advanced classes during their time at high school.
“Looking at the middle school schedule, our students do have opportunities at all levels, no matter what their needs are in the building, but they don’t have access to all the courses that they could have if you had a nine-period day,” Poole said.
One out of four middle school students are unable to participate in activities they would otherwise be able to, according to a community survey conducted by a school sanctioned sub-committee. The survey was recorded for three months prior to the Jan. 7 Board of Education meeting.
“It is the Board of Education’s responsibility to support the administration in exploring additional learning opportunities for our students,” Michael Lewis, Shoreham-Wading River Central School District Board of Education President, said.
Students who are in music ensembles — over 50 percent of the student body — attend school in the morning to practice. With the proposed change, the music program could be scheduled in the middle of the school day, giving those students more access to exploratory courses such as art and technology.
“It may be hard for students to stay after school, so integrating into the school day makes time for that exploration,” Stephanie Auditore, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Middle-Level Education, said. “It’s a time for them to explore and find their identity.”
Before the next steps are taken, the district will first look at the costs and what will be possible in terms of transportation. “It’s important that bussing is provided so that all students can access extra help,” Oceanside Middle School Principal, Dr. Allison Glickman-Rogers, said.
Shoreham-Wading River High School begins its school day at 7:20 a.m., which creates a potential conflict in bus scheduling.
“The most important thing is to get it right, instead of hurrying up to put something in that we haven’t taken the feedback or haven’t done all of the necessary background work for,” Poole said.
There is no set timeline as to when the decision to switch over to nine periods will be made, but the change would most likely go into effect for the upcoming school year.