The Pony Express

CON: Are Early Release Days a Necessity?

Midge Lee, Features Editor

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Love em’ or hate em’, unfortunately, early release days are here to stay, at least for this school year. In the recent September 7 School Board meeting, the Hillsborough County School Board finalized and approved 14 new early release days. In short, that means 14 more ill-used, harrowing five and a half hour days of near idleness.

These days have been compartmentalized into eight little neat packages of roughly 35 minutes, but the classes themselves don’t turn out quite as neatly as they’re cut out to be. One of the largest complaints from students would have to be the lackluster agendas that result from the cropped periods. Instructional time is only cut by 15 minutes or so, but those minutes can be crucial to cramming an entire lesson’s worth of information, so in my experience, many teachers end up assigning nonsensical and only marginally relevant busywork. Case point—I leave school with my brain slightly dulled from the lack of adequate stimulation and a handy new stack of crossword puzzles on 50 different literary terms or the names of all the presidents.

According to Principal Marie Whelan, teachers should not be slacking on the workload for students, and I completely agree and understand—early release days should not and do not translate into free days; there is still an adequate amount of time allotted for each period not to justify on mindless lollygagging. With that being said, the majority of teachers don’t even blow off the school work, and yet the work assigned is still only at its best, sub-par.

Some teachers such as Chemistry teacher Katherine Cutro share similar sentiments on the usage of the available time. Cutro stated succinctly that the instructional period was simply “too short.” On early release days, she has to tend to all the usual duties like attendance, and furthermore, provide reasonable materials to engage the students. All griping aside, the intent behind early release days, which is teacher planning, is a just cause in itself. Cutro agrees that even two additional hours solely for planning and grading papers can make a world of a difference in how the classes run. 

I concede with the fact that there need to be some amount of time set aside for teachers outside of regular days to plan—they actually do have real lives outside of school. But I think this necessity for extra planning can be fulfilled through other, more efficient and favorable means.

Instead of two early release days per month (minus the months with significant holidays), there could just be one entire day of no school, off at any point of the month. As they say, one and done. This alternative could give students the opportunity to recharge, study and prepare for any upcoming tests, would indubitably please the lot, and would simultaneously give teachers not only two, but possibly up to eight hours of non-stop planning and grading action. Additionally, this solution could even bring financial benefits to the school. Expenses would be spared from not having to run the buses or keep the cafeteria opened.

It’s a win-win situation—no lessons have to be cut, no brains have to be dulled (or at least against their own doing), and no complaints or excuses can be made from the lack of sufficient time to plan and play—because there would be more than enough of both for everyone.

Although approximately 96% to 97% of teachers who voted upon the 14 early release days agreed to the schedule in their contracts, according to Whelan, maybe they just need some better options and a fresh perspective. Hopefully, changes will be made in future that can accommodate to the best of everyone’s needs.

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CON: Are Early Release Days a Necessity?