by Carson Sawyer
Do you remember Late-Start Wednesdays? You know, when students were able to arrive at school by 9:35 a.m. on Wednesdays? Well, the effects of the change to Early-Out Fridays have started to settle in. For both teachers and students, something may have seemed a little off this school year. You may have heard some teachers and students weighing the effects of the change in hallways and in classrooms and wondered to yourself: “Was the change to Early-Out Fridays really necessary?”
The first thing that is important to discuss is that the time set aside for the previous Late-Start Wednesdays and the current Early-Out Fridays isn’t a free space for teachers; they hold meetings during this time period as part of the “professional learning community.” The Iron County School District’s website, irondistrict.org, labels the Iron County School District as a professional learning community, explaining, “Professional learning communities function as an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students that they serve. Professional learning communities operate under the assumption that the key to improved student learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators.” In other words, PLCs are a way for teachers to look at the results of different teaching styles and perspectives, and perhaps incorporate some of these methods into their own to align their curriculum with similar tests and standards. By improving the skills and knowledge of educators, PLCs hope to also improve student learning.
Of course, PLCs are not a new concept and this form of professional development in education is becoming more widespread. As part of the professional learning community that is the Iron Country School District, there are professional learning teams (PLTs) and building leadership teams (BLTs). Essentially, they are the smaller divisions of PLCs. Iron County School District states that “PLTs meet weekly to discuss grade level or content area data” and “BLTs meet monthly to discuss school wide data.” For CHS teachers, these take the form of faculty meetings and the occasional district-wide training at Canyon View. Now, these meetings are split into department and grade-level groups as teachers meet to make sure that students are prepared for the same content on tests. So, while there are still differing teaching methods, teachers aim to test the same important curriculum standards. Throughout it all, these professional learning community meetings still give teachers time to slow down, reorganize, and renew their teaching enthusiasm.
However, this is where one main difference comes in between Late-Start Wednesdays and Early-Out Fridays: slowing down in the middle of the week was welcomed by teachers, but how about slowing down at the end of the week? One teacher emphasized that “enthusiasm was a little low” during the meetings after school on Friday. And how could it not be—teachers are, after all, eager for their weekends as well.
English teacher Ms. Hensel agrees: “By the end of the week and the end of the day at the end of the week, we’re tired. It’s hard to focus. I think it’s great, I mean I think it’s great for students. It’s kind of a little reward, lunchtime and you’re done on Friday, and so I’m happy for the students in that case, but it’s hard when teachers collaborate–it’s that time we’re working together, and we’re working to solve problems, and asking us to solve problems at the end of the work week—our A games just aren’t necessarily there. Where on Wednesdays, we did have less time, but I just think we were more fresh.”
Other teachers have focused on how the release times better fit parent schedules. One teacher, *Teacher A, stated, “I like for my own children that my elementary kids are home at the same time as my older kids, so that I don’t have to find someone to watch my kids at home.” Another teacher, *Teacher B, also felt for the parents: “I think that it’s a good change for parents who have children in different ages, and it’ll be better for them that everyone’s on the same schedule.”
Another focus point of this change was the purported targeting of tardies on Wednesday mornings. Many teachers and students may have seen sparse classrooms, only to be filled minutes after the bell rang with waves of students—students carrying smoothies from McDonald’s, Mocha Frappes from Starbucks, and other delights to wake them up. Many students also enjoyed sleeping in, or at least being able to stay up the night before and not having to worry so much about waking up so early the next day.
Senior William Black had this to say about the change: “It feels strange. I do miss Late-Start Wednesdays–and for more sleep, not having to worry about staying up late.” As for choosing which was better for him, he said: “Well, for selfish reasons, I preferred the Wednesday, but Friday is probably a better choice just because it’s easier to use that time than it is to use the Late-Start Wednesday.”
However, teachers are concerned. The proposed change to help limit tardies on Wednesdays may have helped that small instance, but what about students that may decide to now skip Fridays because it’s shorter?
“I do worry that I’m going to start seeing a lot of students missing on Fridays,” Ms. Hensel said. “Because it’s a half day, so [there’s the] idea that it’s not that big of a deal to miss on Fridays. That hasn’t come to fruition the way I thought it would right away, but I’m worried as we get closer, especially in the spring, a lot of people like to take vacations during the school year, and I’m just worried that Fridays–and you’re already competing with so many things, sports and clubs and activities that, you know, teachers compete with a lot when it comes to the attention of their students, and I’m worried that Friday is going to be seen, not just by students but by their families as ‘well, it’s a half-day so it’s not that big of a deal if I miss,’ and then we’ve got one more thing to compete with.”
Other teachers have also brought up concerns that the tardiness problem was never their problem to begin with. And, if tardies were really a problem the change wanted to target, then there is an elephant that needs to be brought into the discussion room: tardies after lunch. However, the change to Early-Out Fridays did help some tardiness and some teachers may have been pleased to have seen this glimpse. *Teacher B stated, “In my fourth period classes, generally a lot of students are tardy because they’re coming off of lunch and they went somewhere, and now they’re coming back. And so, even when it was Late-Start Wednesday, we started late in the morning, and then there was lunch, and then there was fourth and fifth period. And so [with Early-Out Fridays], now all of the classes are before lunch, so that fourth period class that usually has a few people that are tardy, now doesn’t, because everyone’s already here, and they’re just going from one class to the next.”
Students are also divided by this issue. In talking to those who preferred Early-Out Fridays, a few stated that it was because they were able to ditch class with less of an impact on their grades as teachers tend to do less stressful tasks on Fridays with the shortened schedule. And for CHS Seniors, “senioritis” doesn’t help. The smaller Fridays make for a perfect opportunity to ditch and increase student absences. One senior emphasized the lack of consistency throughout their time at CHS, referencing the school’s mascot change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now this change to Early-Out Fridays. “Students need consistency; they do better with consistency,” stated Senior Ericka Marchant. She also mentioned that social science teacher Mr. Maher uses consistency in his classroom and that helps her know what to expect, allowing her to do better. The Iron County School Board, on the other hand, continues to make changes, making some wonder if the board members are considering the effects that changes have on students during these turbulent times.
Nonetheless, some students regard the change as positive in helping their school activities. Sophomore Sadie Hinck is one of these students, and she emphasized the benefit for student athletes that Early-Out Fridays provide, as on Fridays they are able to take their time to eat lunch, socialize, or get help from teachers before practices. She also pointed out that Late-Start Wednesdays did not always allow all students to make use of the time in the morning, referencing bus schedules:
“There [are] some people that have cars and they’re like, ‘I can just go [to school] whenever I want,’ but for the people with like buses and stuff, the buses are our schedule, and you can’t change that schedule, so you have to accommodate your own schedule to fit that.”
Another student emphasized that Early-Out Fridays also give a boon to students who take harder classes, such as AP and CE classes. Senior and CHS English Sterling Scholar Alexandria Arter stated, “[Early-Out] does kind of make Fridays a bit more sacred in a way. It certainly is a lot more of like a descent, and besides, it might just be me because I have college classes and stuff, but I’ve had like a lot of assignments that are due at the end of Friday and having that extra time when I get home [is useful].”
But which was better for her? “I guess I would have to say that if I had to pick between the two, I would go Wednesday,” Alexandria stated. “Sometimes you just want to sleep. You just want to take a break.” She added, “I don’t mind Early-Out Friday, though. It is kind of fun, especially when you don’t have a last period.”
However, with the change to Early-Out, another student held a bleaker outlook, “When Late-Start Wednesdays went away, my life just got worse.” Why? “I don’t like how we don’t get a break between classes. It’s just class, class, class, class.… It’s not that bad ’cause they’re still only an hour long each, but it’s still kind of rough to go through.”
Overall, students and teachers are slowly getting used to this change, whether they thought that it was necessary or not. Teacher B stated, “It’s taken me as a teacher a little while to get used to it, but now I’m liking it. I didn’t think I was going to just because I’m a creature of habit, and I don’t like change. So, there are pros and cons just like with anything, but I am liking it better now. It’s just weird; it’s weird to have all the classes before lunch, you know, every class before lunch, and it kind of catches you off guard, but I’m liking it now.”
(Photo provided by Carson Sawyer)
*Some teachers have asked to remain anonymous and have therefore been labeled as capital letters. These should not be confused with teacher initials.