30-minute makeup plan accomplishes nothing

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) students have grown accustomed to the occasional day off for snow, so I did not expect anything to happen after our impromptu winter break the week of Jan. 15. However, when Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen announced that that the fifth of six optional makeup day plans had been chosen, I rolled my eyes.

Although the schedule adds 30 minutes to the end of the day, it only adds seven minutes to each period. This will do absolutely nothing to further our education. Apart from AP Latin, my hardest class, in which my teacher is particular to not waste a single minute of class time, an extra few minutes will not help me learn what I missed during those snow days.

These seven minutes will most certainly be wasted in both of my fourth period classes, as we usually finish class early anyway. On top of this, our classes are already absurdy long, and it is only natural for students to be tired and less attentive by the end of the period. Extending the period will, if anything, only extend this period of inattentiveness.

In her superintendent blog, Dr. Carstarphen admitted that this option wasn’t her first choice either. The fact is that over 48 percent of people who completed the survey chose to make up the days over our February break and/or a teacher work day in March. My question is, then, if Dr. Carstarphen disagreed with the results, why not choose a different plan? Only about 14,000 people voted in the survey, yet there are over 50,000 students in the whole of APS, and tens of thousands more parents and staff. Why make your decision based on the results of a poll that only a small fraction of those affected by it voted on?

She also made a point of writing that 49 percent of principals surveyed voted for the 30 minute option. Why should their opinions matter more than that of the students or parents, who arguably would be more heavily impacted by such a change? Students have jobs, clubs and other activities; parents for younger children have to organize pickup for their kids; and other APS employees have lives of their own.

Many Grady students already have jobs. Some of those students are earning money to save for college, while others must work to help provide for their family. By keeping students an extra 30 minutes, APS is taking away potential working hours from students who need the money, and could be causing problems between students and their employers when it comes to scheduling.

In addition, bus drivers’ schedules may be tampered with. Bus driving is a part time job, and many drivers are employed elsewhere. This adjusted schedule could interfere with their other jobs, which could cause even more problems for APS to deal with for nearly two months.

To be completely honest, I don’t think it was necessary to even make up the days, and the Georgia Department of Education does not mandate it either. Last semester, the district cancelled three and a half days due to Hurricane Irma and the rare pre-Christmas snow; no make-up days. The two snow storms in 2014, where I missed almost two weeks of school; no make-up days. In a later blog post, Dr. Carstarphen wrote that a quarter of survey responses left a comment that they would prefer no makeup days. In both of those scenarios, my education was not jeopardized because I missed those days, so why is now any different?

Taking away two days of the winter break and the day in March, the option I voted for, realistically makes the most sense. Prior to this year, our winter and fall breaks have always been a simple five-day weekend, so that particular plan to makeup days would have felt no different. One of my teachers said that an extra seven minutes per class will not accomplish anything, but another day or two in class, and the homework that comes with it, would allow him to teach a full unit. Now, he may have to cut material.

Even though I strongly believe that the 30-minute plan was the worst of the ones offered in the poll, there are still some ways to efficiently use those extra 30 minutes. Grady missed this opportunity.

A petition went around both North Atlanta and Grady to use that time as a study hall. Students would be able to accomplish much more in a free 30-minute period than they would be in those extra seven minutes per class. Teachers could also offer their struggling students more individual attention to help them catch up.

Thirty minute longer days has not only made me more exhausted, it has done little to make up for lost time.

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