Lunch Period and Other Major Schedule Changes On Horizon After DSB Meeting – Dresden School Board Update (3/27/2018)

Last week’s Dresden School Board meeting was a particularly thought-provoking one for me as a senior at HHS because there was a large discussion on the topic of reworking the daily schedule for the school.

The meeting took place on March 27th in the HHS library as it does once a month. Mr. Campbell reported on a successful March Intensive week. He also thanked the community for how well they handled the shooting threat situation that happened several weeks ago. He is “proud of our school… thank you for standing together”.

Next, a representative from Circle Up (a parent organization that works to improve student life at HHS) read a thorough proposal to rework the daily schedule at HHS to include a scheduled lunch period. Circle Up has brought up the need for a designated lunch period several times in the past, although nothing has come to fruition despite much research and planning. This time, however, it looks like the School Board and the administration are likely to take action.

Many other members of the public were in attendance at the meeting as well and many of them chimed in to support having a lunch period and to give reasons why. Many brought up the fact that this was a multifaceted discussion and needed to include a look at the entire schedule, not just adding a lunch period. A closely connected issue is the desire of many members of the school community for a later school start time. Previously this year a Board sub-committee formed to take on the research pertaining to a possible late start. The late start aspect of the schedule was brought up as another factor that needs review in the HHS schedule.

Mrs. Powers, a guidance counselor at the Richmond Middle School, spoke at the meeting about how in many school districts there are ongoing scheduling committees that meet every year just to review how the schedule is working. At Hanover we do not have one, and instead create committees as needed.

Taking time to come together as a community socially is really important. Community member and parent Marguerite Dunn said, “It is important to break bread together”. In fact, one member of the public who has investigated wellness policies in schools believes that state laws imply that a designated lunch period is needed, which means that HHS is probably currently out of compliance with the law (and has been for years). One reason that a lunch period has not existed in the past is that our cafeteria can hold about 100 people, but we have more than 700 students, so we just don’t have the space. However, more importantly, our current practice of when and where students eat lunch is out of spirit with wellness policies that we have in place.

Academics are involved too; some teachers and students want longer periods, while some like they way it is with seven fifty minute periods. In addition, if the school were to switch to a different academic schedule, it would require lots of professional development for teachers to be able to adapt to any new schedule.

Mr. Campbell spoke to the fact that over the years the district (specifically HHS) has considered and made schedule changes to enhance student life and welfare.  He shared that in preparation for a scheduling change discussion he has been gathering historic documents that are relevant to schedule changes made in the past. He said changes have been made for a variety of reasons.  An example Mr. Campbell shared is the length of Activity Period, which was shortened in response to growing concerns about substance use by students.

Dr. Badams says that he would suggest implementing a two-year project to rework all aspects of the schedule. Dr.Badams and the Board support the Hanover High School administration forming a scheduling committee rather than having the work done by a subcommittee of the School Board. The hope is that this will help the committee work be more grounded unified effort within the HHS school community. Lauren Morando Rhim, a Board member, stated that she hopes that the problem that a scheduling change would solve will be clearly identified. She said the discussion identified several problems that needed to be addressed. A list of issues that could be addressed by a schedule change includes: student stress, heavy homework load, physical/mental/emotional health and wellbeing and time needed to build connections and community.

The Board’s Late Start Committee will continue to meet with the intent of presenting their findings and recommendations by the end of the school year. There is no expectation that a final recommendation for late start will be made at that time.  It was noted that the charge of the Late Start Committee has a district wide impact while scheduling changes at the high school would likely only impact Hanover High School.

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