Bring Back Three Hour Early Outs

Tatum Bremner, Staff Writer

Gone are the days of Wednesday three-hour early outs. Afternoons preciously spent working, doing school work, and catching up on some much-needed sleep.

Last year every school in the district had the privilege of these weekly, three-hour dismissals. But during the 2021-22 school year Johnston students have returned to one hour early dismissals on Wednesdays. Across the district, students and teachers are disappointed with this change.

For in-person high schoolers during the 2020-21 school year, classes were out each Wednesday at 11:25 am. Originally, these three hours were used for sanitation in between the “Gold” and the “Purple” student groups. When everyone returned to 100% in-person learning on October 26th, these three-hour early outs were kept as time for teachers to engage in professional learning.

High school educators valued this extra time for lesson plans, grading, and meetings. English teacher, Kristi Miller, typically spends “so much time” out of class time grading student work. When looking back on three-hour early outs, she says “It was nice to have more freedom and work time to get work done inside the school day.” Miller says she would go back to Wednesday three-hour early dismissals if given the choice.

An unexpected bonus of the three-hour early dismissals was a more close-knit community with staff members. Staff members were given a chance to collaborate on lessons, and also simply spend more time together. Science teacher Sara Howe says, in addition to planning time, “It also gave you time to get to know your staff and build overall comradery.”

As expected, students also valued this extra time. Emoni Lewis 23’ says the extra time was spent hanging out with family, working, or catching up on school. “I loved it. It gave me time to be free and live my life,” Lewis said.

Ajla Becirovic 23’ has similar feelings, speaking on the effects this extra time had on student mental health saying “It helped a lot with dealing with stress and homework, and just gave us some free time to focus on ourselves too,” said Becirovic. According to a study done by Pew Research center, 88% of teens feel pressure to get good grades. An extra three hours would be valuable time for students to have a break or catch up on schoolwork, personal time that would benefit each individual’s needs.

Critics of the three-hour dismissals claim the shortened school hours take away from student learning time, also noting declining average test scores in the district. Johnston’s reading and math proficiency has gone from near 90% proficient in 2019, to near 80% in just two years. People argue that this proficiency drop is due to three-hour early outs being implicated, although it is more likely that the test score drops are due to the COVID-19 pandemic that halted schools across the nation in the spring of 2020. In addition to that, student test scores would have a chance of improving if students had extra time for studying and homework.

Three-hour early outs provided students with a refreshing mid-week break, extra study time, and time to spend with family and friends. Teachers utilized this time for lesson planning, grading student work, and bonding with other staff members. In a time when students and staff are still recovering and adjusting after two years of a global pandemic, it is safe to say many of us are tired. The first way to combat this is to bring back three-hour early outs.