District Institutes Half Days to Help Teachers
The district built in 27 half days during the school year as a result of teachers receiving a much bigger workload because of COVID-19. The purpose of the half days are to give teachers more time to work on what is needed that they cannot finish throughout the school day.
“The reasoning was because we felt like with all the new stuff, the Zooms, the new teaching and learning options, that we needed to give teachers time to be able to plan and collaborate, so the whole purpose for it was to support them,” said Superintendent Nathan Van Deusen.
Teachers were aware of this decision before the school year even began.
“I wasn’t too sure about the half days at first, but I’m so appreciative of them now because it really gives me a chance to get caught up on grading and planning,” said gym teacher Amy Fisher.
And many teachers agree with her and are thankful for these days to have extra time in school for planning, grading, and collaborating.
“Oh I love it… it gives me extra time to plan, grade, and get things done,” said math teacher Heather Hargett.
Teachers spend the time mostly planning and grading, but collaboration does occur as well.
Fisher said, “My department does collaborate on half days, and this mostly involves planning for the upcoming weeks. Sometimes we discuss concerns that may have come up and we figure out how to deal with those.”
However, other teachers have some concerns about these days disrupting teacher and student schedules.
“It’s kind of hard to balance my schedule because I have some classes in the morning and I have the same class in the afternoon, so it makes the rotation difficult,” said German teacher Brittany Farrell.
Students have mixed feelings about the half days on their part as well. They wonder why they didn’t make the half days on another day of the week—like Fridays?
These days would have to be on a Wednesday because the school could not have half days on any other day. It was up to bus transportation and when they were available. “Wednesdays were actually our third option. It was all based on the availability to have buses at the time because we needed to have them,” said Van Deusen.
Altogether, teachers and students find them very necessary and helpful.
Some parents are finding these half days concerning, especially with having them on Wednesdays. A primary concern is having younger kids getting dropped off while they’re busy at work, not being able to watch them.
Superintendent Van Deusen responded quickly to this. “I would say, in all of this, we all have to realize there’s a give and take. You know, from the parent perspective we provided options that other districts haven’t, which has been, I think from a parent perspective, very much appreciated. So I think what we tried to do then is support our teachers through an updated calendar with the half days and FID [flexible instruction day] days. So, I think in both of those situations, the parents and the teachers, there’s a level of give and take there,” said Van Deusen.
Van Duesen noted that he is proud of the process the district has used to help navigate the changes due to the pandemic.
“I think that the biggest thing that I just want everyone to realize is that there was a great and big process, even though people may not see it, that there’s a large amount of give and take… There’s a give that our parents are giving us because the half days are there especially for our younger ones. But on the other side, there’s a give for our teachers who are willing to Zoom from Classrooms and teach multiple kids from two different formats,” said Van Deusen.