By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High School students will have a late start to their classes on Wednesdays this school year.
The high school has switched its late-arrival days from Mondays to Wednesdays. The move was prompted in response to parents' concerns, as well as those from the OPRF school board, about the school's plans to dismiss students early on Wednesdays.
That recommendation was made to provide teachers addition time for staff development during the school day, explained Principal Nathaniel Rouse. But some board members were concerned about students being out of class early on Wednesdays, and the school heard complaints from some parents and neighbors about kids potentially lingering in the neighborhood instead of being in class.
In response to those concerns, Rouse said the school decided to go with the late arrival in order to allow for staff development. Arrival time begins at 9:35 a.m. with first period classes starting at 9:45. Dismissal on Wednesday will stay the same (3:04 p.m.) but class periods on that day will last 30-35 minutes instead of the usual 48.
Along with staff development time, Rouse said students are encouraged to arrive earlier on Wednesdays for tutoring, to study or use the computer labs. They can also serve detentions during that time.
The staff development time, Rouse added, will focus on kids and how staff can improve in helping them. Before the parent backlash, the initial plan was to have that happen under an early dismissal model on Wednesdays.
"We were deliberate and intentional in asking for the extra amount of time," Rouse said. "We needed more time for our teachers to be provided professional development and opportunities for themselves to dialogue and talk about students. There are a lot of changes in our profession that are, frankly, asking us to go about our business differently. There's so many different nuances to ways in which you can utilize resources to improve student engagement and, more importantly, their achievement. So this time is huge for us."
Rouse said that block of time will be 90 minutes for the staff. On Mondays, staff had about 50 minutes for staff development, but they were coming off the weekend, so it made more sense to move that time to the middle of the week, Rouse explained.
"The reality of starting the week with professional development," he said, "we didn't feel that we were getting the most out of that opportunity."