RANDOLPH, NJ - The 2014-2015 school year ended only a couple months ago with much speculation that adjustments would be made for the 2015-2016 school year. One of these adjustments included a change in the structure of a typical day at Randolph High School.
A memo was posted on the school district’s website on Aug. 25 stating the Randolph Board of Education had “approved new school start and end times for the 2015-16 school year.” The memo also stated the new high school start time would be 7:45 a.m. and its end time would be 2:45 p.m. Originally, Randolph High School (RHS) ran on a rotational schedule with block periods of about 50 minutes each. The day began at 7:15 a.m. and ended at 2:06 p.m.
According to a post, “Pilot Schedule for Week of June 1-5,” from Principal Debbie Iosso’s blog, the change of time allowed RHS to operate on a “full seven-hour student school day,” as opposed to the original schedule that was “6 hours and 51 minutes.”
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One of the factors that went into the change in start time was a concern about students’ sleep habits. In a welcome letter to Randolph parents and students, Superintendent of Schools, David M. Browne wrote, “It is my hope that as the new school year begins, all students will experience the intended beneficial effects of more sleep each school day.”
During the first few days of the 2015-2016 school year, Iosso commented on the changes that had been made. She said, “The move to a 7:45 start time was a district decision and all schools will be starting a bit later than they did last year, in an effort to honor research that states high school students start school too early.”
Steven Rivera, a senior at RHS, had already felt the weight ending school later during the first few days of the new school year. “I need a job,” he stated, reflecting on the change, “and I would find jobs at 2:30.” Ending school later this year, Rivera felt that he “missed the opportunity of getting a job” that would start at an earlier time.
Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Fano acknowledged the change will take some getting used to. “We are aware that the time change at each school has impacted everyone’s routine in some way,” she said, “and hope that the adjustments provide the best learning environment for our students.
In addition to changing the length and times of the school day, the structure of the day has been altered.
Last June, RHS staged a pilot week, trying out different schedules that would allow for a longer block period. On her same blog post, Iosso stated that part of the rationale for a longer period was to “ provide uninterrupted lab time” for science classes and “provide block times that will support performance based learning activities for students.” Before the time change, each class was 50 minutes long and part of lab would take place during lunch.
“At first I wasn't happy about the changes,” said Kyle Ross, senior and Executive President of the RHS Student Government, “so I even started a committee to sort of negotiate the schedule and get a better understanding [of why] they wanted to make the changes. After hearing what the administration had to say, it made me more willing to try out the new schedule.”
Other students were clearly unhappy with the possible changes for the next school year, as well. Students held lunch protests throughout the pilot week.
The students were getting their voices heard. The schedule for the 2015-2016 school year allows for a 50 minute lunch period.
Ross also found another way for students and administration to communicate about the changes. “I started the committee mostly because there were a lot of unhappy students,” he explained how student focus group came to be. Ross said he told Iosso of his idea for a committee of students from each grade to form a student focus group, and “she was very excited by the idea.”
The focus group was a very effective way for the students to communicate their concerns about the new schedule and even, as Ross put it, “compromise” on a few things. “We had around ten meetings in the last few months of school and came up with the schedule we have now,” Ross stated.
The new schedule was finally put into action on Tuesday, Sept. 8. “So now we have two 50 minute blocks and a 70 minute block in the morning, and again in the afternoon,” Iosso explain. “Lunch remains as it was with 50 minutes.”
With all of the negative anticipation that had first surrounded the idea of change, the first few days of the new plan sparked very positive reactions.
“My teacher was really nice and gave us a 5 minute break!” Jaclyn Altizio, senior at RHS said of the 70-minute period. She also said the class was able to take part in longer activities, and that the period “didn’t feel long at all.”
As one of the original reasons for initiating the longer blocks, the 70-minute periods have worked out better for science classes, so far. Malaga experienced this on the first day of the new schedule. “It actually went pretty well,” she stated. “It was nice having a core class for 70 minutes (I had chem) because I felt like I wasn't rushed to learn anything.”
Peter Litichevsky is a PE, Health and Driver’s Education teacher at RHS. He said that the longer periods are going to be “good for Phys. Ed.” He expressed some concern that the periods might feel long for other classes.
Litichevsky is not the only one who has this concern. The 70-minute periods will be a little bit of an adjustment for both teachers and students.
“We will monitor this as the year progresses and ask for stakeholder input - that will include meeting regularly with our student leaders,” Iosso explained. “Our instructional coaches are providing daily PD to all staff in the best strategies for a 70-minute block to help them become more accustom to the longer period.”
Many changes were made in the structure of the day for the 2015-2016 school year at Randolph High School. Luckily, the first few days with these changes have been very positive, paving the way for even more positive days to follow.