The Alachua County School Board unanimously voted to add instructional minutes to school days to accommodate for weather cancellations or other disturbances such as Hurricane Irma last fall. Board members adopted the proposal on Tuesday for the 2018-2019 school year calendar.
The proposal includes a three-step plan for interruptions in regular school scheduling by adding two instructional minutes to every school day, the use of flex days and additional minutes if needed.
Instructional minutes are the amount of time students are in an instructional class, actively learning, which means the time cannot be added to lunch or recess, said April M. Griffin, board vice chair for the board.
“Instead of the kids having to come back after the last day of school for two days, we added instructional minutes to every day,” Griffin said. She explained that the goal is to avoid make-up days.
The additional two minutes will be incorporated at all public elementary, middle and high schools in Alachua County. Each public schools will decide how to incorporate the minutes, she said.
Flex days are another option to make up for disruptions in regular scheduling. This was implemented in 2005 in response to the 2004 hurricanes, said Jackie Johnson, director of communications and community initiatives for Alachua County Public Schools.
“We didn’t have any flex days and it caught us off guard,” Griffin said. “So now we build them in, and if we don’t use them, then the kids get the day off.”
The two flex days for the upcoming school year are scheduled for Nov. 12, which is Veterans day, and Dec. 21.
If the two minutes and flex days do not cover the missed time, schools can add minutes to the day as necessary. For the current school year, seven minutes were added to school days for the remainder of the calendar due to missed school days during Hurricane Irma.
State legislature may also influence school scheduling. Last year, legislators passed a requirement adding more time to elementary recess, requiring schools to add minutes to the end of the day to accommodate the changes, Johnson said.
“I believe that any time we add to the instructional minutes for the day it’s beneficial,” Griffin said. “I wish we would have added more.”