The 2019-2020 school year will bring increased educational opportunities for Point Pleasant Borough High School students with the implementation of an innovative, student-centered school schedule that expands student choices, increases instructional periods, promotes wellness and balance and better prepares students for post-secondary success.
After nearly three years of extensive research, contemplation and thorough self-examination, high school administration is prepared to transition from the current traditional straight 8-period day, during which students attend the same eight classes in the same order each day, to a rotate and drop schedule, under which students meet for six of their eight classes each day on a schedule that rotates depending on the day.
“Twenty years ago, the traditional schedule, which the high school has now, was the most common schedule,” said Principal Kurt Karcich. “However, many schools have since changed to schedules that align better with students’ needs.”
According to Mr. Karcich, the move to the new schedule began during the 2015-2016 school year when he established a committee to begin looking at various school schedules.
“We began considering alternate school schedules to address some specific challenges under the current schedule,” he said.
Among those challenges were the restrictive 45-minute period length, limited student choices including a schedule that had the majority of students taking only seven academic classes, and negative impacts to student wellness imposed by the 7:10 a.m. start time for students taking optional period 1 classes, the rapid succession-style of period to period shifts every 45 minutes, and some students being forced to have lunch period 4 at 9:40am.
The following year, in 2016-2017, the 10-person committee immersed themselves deeper in the research, visiting various schools to observe different schedules in use. They also attended workshops on how best to meet students’ needs and surveyed staff to determine the ideal instructional time per class.
“During the 2017-2018 school year, a meeting with Manasquan High School, who was planning their own transition to the rotate and drop schedule, proved fortuitous when they recommended the committee make a site visit to Nutley High School, a school that had already made the move to the rotate and drop,” said Principal Karcich. “Almost immediately after the Nutley observation, the committee unanimously decided to move forward with the rotate and drop model.”
Thus far, the current school year has been dedicated to preparing the school and the community for the schedule change.
“After conducting successful presentations this summer for Central Administration and the Board of Education, we really began preparing to transition to the new model,” he said.
Another visit to Nutley High School followed in November, this time with a teacher from each department, guidance counselors and Assistant Principal Jacquelyn Zamarra. During the visit, Boro teachers were paired with teachers from Nutley and were able to observe instructional classes and interact one-on-one to discuss the most effective ways to transition lesson plans to accommodate the increased instructional time, which will change from the current 45 minutes per class to 55 minutes under the new schedule.
Also in November, presentations were made to the High School PTO and the Principal’s Advisory Committee of students.
“The overall consensus has been extremely positive with students from my committee expressing excitement by the new choices and opportunities provided by the new schedule,” Mr. Karcich said.
On Dec. 18, the rotate and drop schedule was officially introduced to parents and students at a public information session, where Principal Karcich and Director of Guidance Kimberly Ferlauto discussed the rationale behind changing the schedule and detailed the new format.
“Currently, about 23% of students take eight academic classes by participating in Period 1,” Mr. Karcich said at the forum.
Period 1, also called Zero Period, is an optional period, beginning at 7:10 a.m. that allows students to take an extra academic class. With limited space and only certain classes offered, Period 1 poses particular challenges for students looking to maximize their course load. Additionally, because teachers that teach Period 1 classes are on a different schedule, they are not available to provide extra help to students after school.
Period 1 also affects student wellness.
“Research indicates that teens are not getting enough sleep,” said Principal Karcich. “And unfortunately, many of the students that take advantage of the Period 1 classes are the same ones that are likely to be busy after school with involvement in sports, clubs or afterschool jobs, which means, they’re likely not starting homework until 8- or 9 o’clock at night. It’s not good for their well-being.”
Under the new model, all students will be on the same schedule, beginning at 7:50 a.m. and ending at 2:38 p.m. The schedule adds 15 minutes to the school day; however, lunch has also been expanded to one hour. Student schedules will include eight academic courses, though they’ll only take six 55-minute courses per day. All eight classes will meet three times every four days. During the one-hour Community Lunch, students will also have the opportunity to receive extra help and participate in club meetings. Many students are not able to participate in clubs or attend extra help after school because of other obligations. With the new schedule, students will be empowered to make their own choices on how to use the Community Lunch time.
“The day is split into a morning and afternoon rotation,” said Director of Guidance Kimberly Ferlauto. ”Period 1-4 meet in the morning and periods 5-8 meet in the afternoon while a 1-hour community lunch splits the day.
“There are four possible days (A-D),” she said. “On each day, one class drops from the AM periods and one class drops from the PM periods.”
Because the schedule rotates on different days, classes do not occur at the exact time every day. This limits monotony providing opportunities for a more varied approach to the school day.
The new schedule will also provide greater flexibility and individual choice for students as well as opportunities to gain time management and decision-making skills.
“One of the most common factors affecting students’ success at college is adjusting to the freedom it provides,” Mr. Karcich said. “Though this change will represent a shifting of culture for our students, it’s one I think they’ll embrace and that they’ll certainly grow from. Under the new schedule, students will have increased options and the freedom to design the schedule best suited to their post-graduation goals.”
Whether it’s adding another academic course, taking a study hall to get a start on homework during the school day or exploring a new career-based elective, students will have the option to create the schedule that meets their needs and interests. The coming year will also bring increased course options with the addition of AP Psychology and AP Environmental Science as well as new electives in robotics, criminal justice and general psychology.
Another important aspect of the new schedule is that it extends instructional time for Advanced Placement and Science courses as well as for Algebra 1 on days when those classes are adjacent to lunch. On the days those classes are before or after lunch, 20 minutes will be taken from lunch for added instructional time.
“The additional instructional time will allow teachers to access that higher-level thinking that 45 minutes sometimes just doesn’t permit,” Principal Karcich said. “Many times, teachers are forced to skip a teachable moment due to time constraints. The extra time will allow our teachers to answer any questions that may arise or get a little more in-depth with content.”
Though the aforementioned courses will require 20 minutes to be taken from the Community Lunch once every four days, students will still have a reasonable 40 minutes to eat lunch on those days.
“By providing a common, designated break during the day, during which the entire building will be on the same schedule, the Community Lunch offers a number of benefits,” said Principal Karcich.
Those benefits include offering extra help, with teachers holding designated office hours; increased opportunities for student involvement in activities with club meetings potentially being held during lunch; and increased counseling opportunities with guidance counselors. The number one benefit however, according to Principal Karcich, is safety.
“Under the current school schedule, there are four lunch periods,” he said. “That means for three-and-a-half hours every day, students are in and out of the building. The community lunch reduces that to one hour; plus, during that hour, all five building administrators as well as the school security guard will be patrolling the building and grounds. Under the new schedule, I can guarantee that the building will be more secure, which remains my number one priority.”
Though having the entire school share a common lunch period is expected to require a period of adjustment, plans are already in place to accommodate the increase in students, including, reconfiguring the cafeteria to increase seating space, adding a lunch kiosk location where students can purchase packaged food, designating areas of the school as alternatives to the cafeteria, and opening the gym to allow bleacher seating. Principal Karcich has also begun contacting local businesses to inform them of the change and has discussed with them plans to handle the increased traffic.
“I have to commend Mr. Karcich and the schedule advisory committee, who have really done their due diligence to select a schedule that maximizes academic opportunities for Point Pleasant Borough High School students,” said Superintendent Vincent S. Smith. “The new schedule was developed with students’ best interests at heart – and that includes their academic interests as well as their general health, wellness and safety interests.
“With the new rotate and drop schedule in place, our students will not only have more opportunities to achieve success with a more balanced schedule that allows them to explore and develop their interests but they’ll also have a safer learning environment,” he said. “With fewer periods during the school day, students will be changing class less, which means they’ll be spending less time in the hallways, where unfortunately most student conflicts occur. The Community Lunch will also improve safety by limiting traffic in and out of the school building. Because it addresses the district’s two top priorities – student safety and achievement, I’m fully confident the new schedule will be a tremendous success.”