Early bird catches academic worm through zero hour

An extension to the regular school day, zero hour has been added to accommodate the needs of student schedules. Beginning 55 minutes before the regular day, this optional class has been implemented in order to provide opportunities and avoid conflicts with after school activities. Director of Curriculum and Assessment, Julie Mosher, understands the  challenge.

“Students have multiple priorities that are vying for their time and focus. Since we shifted to a later start for high school, we noticed that students were having a hard time especially if upper level classes were scheduled during 7th hour,” she said. “They were missing a lot of class time or they were not getting into classes that they wanted because of that 7th hour overlap with missing class time because of sports.”

As the concern grew, administration decided to generate a solution to fix the overlap between school and extracurriculars.

“A solution that other school districts had was expanding the school day so that students could take a course outside of what would normally be a school day,” said Mosher. “To have an early start or a later start, we could possibly offer class early so then we came up with the idea of zero hour.”

Due to the lack of availability, zero hour wasn’t feasible in previous years.

“We haven't done this previously because starting school at 7:40 in the morning, zero hour would have been starting around 6:45,” Mosher said. “This didn’t seem real practical for everybody if you think about teachers and families.”

Principal Erin Kohl views zero hour as an opportunity to create an alternative for fitting both academics and sports effectively into a day with minimal overlap.

“The purpose for zero hour is to give students options,” she said. “ It was intended to be an option for athletes in sports that require frequent early dismissal from school and to be beneficial for students who work and want to begin evening jobs a bit earlier.”

Physical education instructor and football coach Joseph Wagner understands the challenges of missed class time due to sports.

“For football, on Thursday’s games, when they left early from 7th hour, they were responsible for making up work that they missed.”

Teachers are also greatly affected by this time change, but for Wagner, it’s a blast to the previous West schedule.

“For me, it puts it back to before they changed the schedule,” he said. “ With zero hour, it’s basically the same schedule for teachers as it was before the start time changed a few years ago.”

When introduced to this new concept, concerns arose regarding the earlier time responsibility for students, which would give a greater chance for tardiness. Wagner contradicted this theory with his observation of his class so far this year.

“Students are actually more attentive, hardworking and focused in the morning classes,” he said.

Sophomore Anna Kohl has enjoyed the experience of zero hour so far.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get up in the morning,” she said. “But it’s nice having the extra time after school and getting out earlier.”

Although some enjoy the jumpstart to their day, some students, such as junior Leah Fleury, look forward to an early end to a hard day of school.

“I took zero hour because I thought it would be nice to get out of school early,” she said. “It gives me extra time after school to get homework done before sports.”

Fleury’ s decision has paid off for her tennis season time commitment.

“It helps with tennis because I don’t have to miss any school when we get out early for matches,” she said.

Mosher and other administrators agree that starting earlier will widen opportunities for students.

“I’m hoping that it possibly impacts their time management and opens up their schedule,” she said. “This would give them the opportunity to do sports, extracurriculars, work more, and attend other activities they were limited to do before.”

Feedback vocalized to Principal Kohl about zero hour by both students and staff demonstrates its success in achieving the planned goal.

“So far all of the feedback has been positive from students and teachers,” she said. “The teachers who are teaching zero hour classes chose to teach zero hour, so no teacher was forced to work a different schedule.”

Wagner has already witnessed benefits in the classroom.

“The choice to add zero hour to West’s options for scheduling has been positive and beneficial for athletes, especially the ones who leave early during 7th hour,” he said.

As the school year advances, Mosher sees more benefits to come.

“I think we are on the right track to accomplish what we intended to regarding benefits of the extended school day,” she said. “It's a little too early to see the long term benefits. The biggest benefits would be that students have time to take the courses they really want to take, making their time management and their busy lives a little bit easier.”

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