Common Ground kills class time


Sammie Connor

Students talk during a class discussion.

During the 2016-17 school year, there are 12 Common Ground days built into its schedule, taking away seven hours of class time. Those numbers do not seem so bad when put into perspective with the 182 total school days and approximately 1062 total class hours, but they are extremely unbalanced: three Common Ground days in some months, none in others and a plethora of other irregular days each month, like late starts, assemblies and days off. Added together, it causes a real mess for everyone involved.

Teachers and students alike complain about Common Ground days, as class time is lost, but just enough to make it problematic, losing only five minutes causes many lessons to be unanticipatedly cut short or hastily rushed through, and this is detrimental to student learning. Days off and late starts are valuable; they provide a welcome break from the monotony of school life, but enough is enough, Common Ground days take these pleasant respites and turn them into a nuisance for teachers trying to plan their semester. This, in turn, results in school time not being used to its full potential, and student work time (and accompanying deadlines) being split apart into small, erratically spaced and sized chunks that don’t help anyone get things done.

To ensure that students get full class periods to learn new material and have ample time to do their work, Common Ground should take place at 9:00 a.m. on district late start days, with students arriving before 9:00 a.m. and beginning their regular seven period schedule after Common Ground. For exceptional Common Ground days, such as the beginning of year assemblies, course registration and the AP fair, the Common Ground schedule as it currently is should be used—there are so few of that type of Common Ground that they will not make an impact in overall student learning, not nearly as much as Common Ground currently does.

By shifting Common Ground to 9:00 a.m. on late start days, professional development and district bussing schedules would have to change in response. To retain an adequate amount of professional development, an additional school late start could be added to make up for the lost time. One school late start is far more manageable than 10 Common Ground days. Additionally, since the school is already on the earliest tier of start times in Parkway, there would be no need for major switches in bussing to accommodate for an earlier arrival. The drivers who cover West High in the morning could still do so without conflict.
Students certainly appreciate a change in pace every once in awhile, but when Common Ground days are combined with days off and late starts, it becomes too much, to the point in which it rarely seems like we have full class periods, rarely have enough time in school to do what we need to. Common Ground should be held at 9:00 a.m. on district late start days to mitigate this class time problem and give students the character and academic educations that they need and deserve.