Beginning this fall, Granite City High School will start classes an hour later on Mondays.
The idea is not to give students an extra hour of sleep. Rather, it’s part of a growing concept of building in an hour a week of staff development time without cutting too deeply into instructional time in the classroom.
Superintendent Jim Greenwald said they have been discussing this idea since he was principal at the high school, and it has been cleared with the school board to launch this fall. While school will start an hour later at the high school on Mondays, the students will not miss any classes, he said.
Instead, each class will be a little shorter: between 42 and 58 minutes per class period. In a regular school day, each class is between 55 and 59 minutes. “We don’t believe that will make much difference,” Greenwald said. “If we were going to eliminate a whole class period every week, that would be different.”
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On a regular day, Granite City High School’s warning bell rings at 7:55 a.m. with first hour beginning at 8 a.m. On the late-start schedule, the bell will ring at 8:55 a.m., with first hour beginning at 9 a.m.
With slightly shorter class periods, a five-minute between-class passing period instead of six minutes, and lunches beginning at 10:38 a.m. instead of 10:06 a.m., school will still let out at the same time: 3:10 for final bell. Busing will be slightly altered to accommodate the new Monday schedule, Greenwald said.
The full schedule and an explanation letter has been posted on the Granite City District 9 website. The change only affects Granite City High School; junior high and elementary schools’ schedules will not change, Greenwald said.
The idea was suggested by the teaching staff as a way to shoehorn in more collaboration and professional development within each department.
Greenwald said it will not be free time for them to catch up on grading or conferring with parents. Instead, it will be “extremely structured,” with planned training and departmental meetings to collaborate on ideas and confer with each other.
“We’re giving the staff ownership within the departments to come up with ideas for professional development,” Greenwald said. “We believe this will help the teachers, and help the students with teachers who are better prepared and have been able to collaborate with each other.”
It isn’t a new concept; Adlai Stevenson High School in the Chicago area started doing it about 20 years ago, and the concept is spreading among schools throughout the Midwest. Several metro-east schools have been doing it for a while.
We’re giving the staff ownership within the departments to come up with ideas for professional development. We believe this will help the teachers, and help the students with teachers who are better-prepared and have been able to collaborate with each other.
Granite City Superintendent Jim Greenwald
“I wouldn’t say it’s unusual at all,” said St. Clair County Regional Superintendent Susan Sarfaty. Some might do it once a week or once a month, she said, though it’s her impression that more schools do it with an early dismissal rather than starting late. However, studies have shown that high school students need more sleep, and that might be a reason to start school a little later, she said.
For example: Collinsville High School has been dismissing classes a half-hour early on Wednesdays for three years. Superintendent Robert Green said the union agreed to add an extra 30 minutes onto those Wednesdays, so they can use that hour as “professional learning community time.”
“They look at test data and compare student performance, to try to see if there’s ways we can improve or change our teaching methods,” Green said. “It’s an old theory, called Theory Z, that says the people who know best how to improve are the people working at the lowest level.”
Green said he had adapted the concept to the schools where he worked in Indiana before coming to Collinsville. In addition to allowing the teachers time to coordinate and compare data, it gives the school a chance to offer training.
“We have a lot of unfunded mandates, and we have to train our people on it,” he said. “At first some people questioned it: Why give extra time for teachers? But there’s so many things we need to train them on, and there’s no time built into the schedule for it.”
And it works, Green said; the extra hour makes a big difference in professional development and results in the classroom.
There’s been a lot of discussion about starting school later for teens; studies show that older teens need more sleep to function well. That wasn’t a factor for Granite City in making their decision to start late on Mondays, Greenwald said. However, he said they will be watching to see if attendance and tardy rates change with the later start time in the coming months.
School begins Aug. 16 in Granite City.