HomeMt Laurel NewsLenape District unveils new schedule with longer class periods, more free time...

Lenape District unveils new schedule with longer class periods, more free time for students

School days in the Lenape Regional High School District won’t look the same after this year.

School officials are planning to unveil a new class schedule district-wide for the 2015–16 school year. The new schedule is a radical departure from the current schedule. Gone will be 42-minute classes and 13 periods per day. Coming in will be a simpler format with 57-minutes classes, six periods and a new lunch format.

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All changes are being made with the intention of improving student learning, decreasing student stress and making the school day more efficient.

“There are going to be major benefits for our students,” Superintendent Carol Birnbohm said.

Increased instructional time

The LRHSD’s current schedule features 42-minute periods where students could potentially take up to eight classes per day. Birnbohm said the 42-minute class period is inadequate when preparing students for college, where they face much longer class lengths. In addition, she said teachers struggle to get through a full lesson in 42 minutes.

“It’s a little hard to teach a class in 42 minutes,” Birnbohm said.

The new schedule increases each class period to 57 minutes, adding 15 minutes of instructional time. In addition, students will only have six classes per day. A student will have each class three times in a four-day rotating schedule.

The district is not increasing the length of the school day. The extra instruction time is taken from less time spent in the hallway for class changes and eliminating homeroom at the beginning of the day.

Overall, students will spend 1,980 more minutes in each class than they would under the current schedule. This is equivalent to five extra school days of instruction without adding to the school calendar.

“This all works within the footprint of our school day,” Birnbohm said.

Community Lunch and Learn

Perhaps the biggest change with the new schedule is the Community Lunch and Learn. The entire school will have a 50-minute lunch period sandwiched directly in the middle of the school day. Right now, students are divided into five different lunch periods.

“It’s all of the kids having lunch at the same time in the building,” Birnbohm said. “It’s a great time in the middle of the day to refresh and refuel.”

In the Community Lunch and Learn, students will be given the freedom to use the time to do what they want. They can eat lunch, get extra help from a teacher, go to a club meeting, get homework done or just spend time with friends.

Birnbohm described the new format as a privilege, saying the students will have to make responsible decisions in the same way they will have to in college.

“We want this to be student-driven,” she said.

Each school will open spaces where students can congregate for each lunch. In addition to the cafeteria, students will be able to go to the media center, gym, classrooms designated as study areas and other places.

At Shawnee High School, principal Matthew Campbell said they have identified enough space to accommodate nearly 2,000 students, a much larger number than their student body of just less than 1,500.

“We’re going to have plenty of places for students to eat,” Campbell said.

In addition, the schools will have food kiosks set up in the hallways where students can purchase lunch. This will give them an alternative to purchasing lunch in the cafeteria.

The changes won’t be a dramatic departure for all schools. Seneca High School already allows students to eat and study in the media center during lunch period.

All lunch periods will be supervised. Teachers will be assigned to watch certain areas of the school on a rotating schedule.

How to build a better schedule

The new schedule was not drawn up overnight. The process began almost two years ago in the spring of 2013, when a committee was formed to examine the schedule and how it could be improved.

Birnbohm said the current schedule was flawed in a number of ways. In addition to less instruction time, the 13-period format created course conflicts. In addition, students spent a lot of time traveling from class to class.

The district came up with the new schedule after examining schedules from other schools similar to the Lenape district. Teachers, students, administrators and support staff visited high schools such as Ocean City, Mainland, Kingsway and Cherry Hill East and West to see their schedules in action and talk to the school communities about what they thought of their school days.

Birnbohm said elements from these schools and others were combined to form the new schedule. The schedule is very similar to the one used at Chatham High School in North Jersey. NJ Monthly ranked Chatham as New Jersey’s №1 high school last year, and Birnbohm believes the Lenape district schools are capable of doing the same.

“We want to always try to constantly improve,” she said.

Parental feedback mostly supportive

During presentations at each of the four high schools, parents were invited to ask questions and give feedback about the new schedule. Most of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many parents saying the schedule was great idea.

“I think it’s much better than what they have now,” Brendan Oleniacz said. “The lunch periods will work much better.”

Shawnee parent Sherrie Lodge also felt the lunch format would be a large improvement, as students will get more free time and more freedom.

“It’s going to be a nice privilege for the students,” she said.

Another parent, David Deming, was happy to hear about the increased instructional time and fewer classes per day.

“I think this is a great plan,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more of a stress-less environment to go to school in.”

One concern parents did have revolved around homework. Birnbohm said many students spend at least a couple hours a night on homework right now. With longer class periods, some parents feared teachers would also increase the amount of homework.

Birnbohm said the longer classes aren’t meant to increase the amount of content taught, but to better reinforce it. She said the amount of work for students wouldn’t increase.

“We certainly don’t want our teachers doubling up on homework,” Birnbohm said.

The district also plans to address concerns about students who may misbehave during the new lunch period. A form of detention will be created for students who choose to abuse the lunch privilege.

School officials don’t believe discipline will be a major concern, citing Ocean City High School as an example. Birnbohm said administrators from Ocean City said they had a large decrease in discipline issues after adding Lunch and Learn, saying students embraced the freedom.

Parents who missed the schedule presentations will have an opportunity to check out all the information in the coming weeks. The slideshow presentation, videos and a list of frequently asked questions will be posted at the district’s websitewww.lrhsd.org prior to the end of the month.


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