During the Board of Education meeting on December 8th, the East Haven Board of Education (BOE) voted to change the school calendar to release students for half days on Fridays for all full weeks of school. These half days have been called “Flex Time” and, as presented by assistant superintendent, Jen Murrihy, the time is an opportunity for teachers and students to have more personalized work time to be successful in our blended learning environment. During the BOE meeting on December 8th, EHPS Assistant Superintendent Jen Murrihy presented the idea and explained the overall expectation of this flex time. At the BOE meeting said, “The expectation would be that teachers would have an opportunity to engage in personalized professional learning.” She continued on to say that although it is a building early release for students, students should continue to engage in asynchronous learning activities to help them be successful in the blended learning environment this school year. Mrs. Murrihy also said that many teachers have expressed their concerns about connecting with remote students and how they feel it is important to do so. Therefore, this flex time may allow teachers to connect more with remote students and their families. Elaborating on this, Murrihy explained, “[Flex time] allows teachers to remain in the building and engage and reach out to families as needed, schedule time to support student engagement, and otherwise professional learning that is directed to the specific need that they’ve been addressing in various ways throughout the course of our survey data and things of that nature.”
The first flex time took place after winter break on January 8th, 2021. Following this first flex time day, students and parents expressed their thoughts and concerns about this new change. After running a poll on Instagram, results showed that the majority of students were in favor with 95% voting in favor and a mere 5% voting against. An EHHS junior, Christian Piscitelli, said, “It seems like a good idea, since it’ll give teachers time to catch up on grading. However, while it’s good for teachers, the students will probably not use it for anything productive.” Many students agreed with him, saying they are mainly in favor just because it means less school. Students feel they will just go home and not utilize the time to benefit their education. Students against it share the same opinion, Junior, Emma Szewc said, “In any other situation, the idea would be good. Both students as well as staff would benefit from early dismissals on Friday. However, the current pandemic we’re in makes it more difficult to add something new like this when many things in the school are still so disorganized and haven’t been properly dealt with.” Overall, most students are looking forward to seeing how this change in schedule will play out and are excited for this break amidst the pandemic.
As this change affects not only teachers and students, but the parents of EHPS students as well, their input on the situation was also important. Many parents were in agreement that teachers needed some extra time for grading during this confusing time, while others thought it was unnecessary. One parent says that this flex time is not needed, as teachers are still receiving professional development days, and believes these should be enough. She also expresses her concerns about younger students and having to pay more for babysitters while parents are working and their children are coming home early. However, another parent believes that this flex time is great, not only for teachers, but for students’ mental health as well. This parent believes having these half days is a well needed break for students, especially those in honors and AP classes. Another parent, who works in healthcare believes schools should go full remote for a few weeks, as she is seeing cases rise after the holidays.
Teachers and administrators seem to appreciate the opportunities that Flex Fridays provide for the entire educational community. Principal Vincent DeNuzzo says, “I like the fact that teachers have an opportunity to use the time for a variety of purposes that will ultimately help them with their classes and their students,” he goes on to say, “This year, our theme has been to always be flexible as we navigate through teaching in the middle of a pandemic.” Mr. DeNuzzo makes the point that he has seen teachers working together and using their time to find creative ways to balance teaching remote and in-person students alike. He thinks both teachers and students will benefit from Flex Fridays by catching up on assignments, finding new ways to perform at their best, and just taking some time to breathe and regroup. Ms. Emilia Caturano, an English teacher, agrees, saying “The Flex Time Fridays has been a great opportunity for all students and educators across the district to catch up on their work with the increased demands during the pandemic.” She also states that she has seen many students utilize this time to meet with teachers and paraprofessionals through virtual meetings. Mr. Adam Gardner, social studies teacher, says he feels that Flex Fridays are “symbolic of our need to be flexible and adapt during these trying times that we are all experiencing.” Mr. Gardner also says that this extra time is a way to support the students of East Haven and an opportunity for reflection and growth. All in all, this flex time seems to be well-received by EHPS students, parents, and teachers to have a bit of time to catch up on their own projects.