BAR HARBOR — While it isn’t yet set in stone, the daily schedule for next school year that Mount Desert Island High School Principal Matt Haney presented to the school system board Monday night is the one that he feels strongly is best for students and teachers.
It calls for classes to start at 8:45 a.m., not 8 a.m. as in previous years or 9 a.m. as now. Classes would last 70 minutes, not 80 as in the past or the current 60 minutes. Classes would end at 2:25 p.m., a few minutes later than students are used to.
For teachers, the day would start at 7:30 a.m. with an hour for planning, meeting individually with students and collaborating with each other. Then at 2:30 p.m., teachers would have another half hour for planning and student meetings.
Haney said some of the proposed schedule changes were informed by feedback from students, parents and teachers. Others were the result of learning from experience.
As for the later start time for classes, Haney said, “One of the things we’ve learned this year is that students are healthier, they’re safer, they perform better and they behave better when they are fully rested, when they have more sleep. And with explicitly defined time to meet with teachers outside of class, students learn better.”
As for teachers, he said, “When given the time and structure to collaborate as professionals, educators create innovative and impactful learning experiences for students.
“And while students and teachers have been able to utilize the time they’ve had this year in efficient and creative ways, the schedule we built in response to the pandemic does not allow for enough post-pandemic in-class learning time.”
Haney said one of the questions he is asked most often is, “Why make these schedule changes while we are just coming out of a pandemic? Why can’t we just get back to normal?”
“Well, it is precisely because we are coming out of a pandemic that our students need us to make these changes,” he said. “Now that we know better, we have to do better. We can’t just go back to what we did before.
“We are always, every year, pandemic or not, thinking about how we get better.”
“I am fiercely proud of the work that we’ve done this year, the work that our students have done, our educators have done, our families, our board, our community,” Haney said. “What we have been able to provide our children is amazing.
“That being said, it’s not good enough for a non-pandemic year. So, the ideas, the brainstorming we’re doing is not about trying to recreate what we have done this year. It’s about learning from this year and using that to make us better.”
K-8 early release
Superintendent Marc Gousse talked with the school system board about the schedule for elementary schools next year. He has prepared two schedules: one that includes the early release of students on most Wednesdays so that teachers would have time for collaboration and professional development, and one schedule without the early release days.
But based on questions and feedback from parents, teachers and others, another option might be proposed. School system board Chair Heather Jones said Gousse has indicated he might come back to the board later this month with a recommendation “that may include an early release [day] each month but is not a weekly early release.”
As for plans for early release days in the 2022-2023 school year, Gousse suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed to look at options and recommend a way forward.
Jones agreed, saying, “We might need to step back, go back to what’s the purpose, what are we trying to achieve, what are our goals. And then explore all the options to achieve those goals.”