First day of school launches longer day for Prince George’s middle-schoolers


GREENBELT, MD - School started in Prince George’s County on Monday. Students arrive to their first day of classes at Greenbelt Middle School. (Sarah L. Voisin/WASHINGTON POST)
August 20, 2012

Students arriving for their first day at Greenbelt Middle School entered a new school building and received a new schedule, as Prince George’s County middle schools tacked on 40 minutes to the school day this year.

For parent Karen Harrison, the 8:15 a.m. start time means less rush in the morning for her. The school day previously went from 9 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.; the day now ends at 3:35 p.m.

“I get to get to work on time,” said Harrison, whose daughter started the eighth-grade Monday.

The extra 40 minutes are being billed as a “enrichment and intervention period,” though each school principal is free to decide how that time is used. The change is partly an effort to save money, as some middle school students will now be able to share buses with high school students. The change could save the school system $5 million, but school officials are also touting the change as a way to get students extra help if they need it.


Karen Harrison (left) and her daughter, eighth-grader Kara Harrison, 13, arrive for the first day at the new Greenbelt Middle School Monday, Aug. 20. Middle school students across the county will be in the classroom 40 minutes longer than last year. (Holly Nunn/The Gazette)

At Greenbelt Middle, Principal Warren Tweedy said that in the first few weeks of the school year, the time would be spent as an “advisory period,” with students learning social skills like respect and responsibility. The advisory period will be added onto current class time and taught by current faculty.

In October, Tweedy said, he and his staff will look at each student’s needs and begin getting students help they might need in areas like reading, math or English language skills, though the details of how this will work have not been decided.

“Some students will need intervention right away, and we’ll get that for those students,” Tweedy said. “We also need to find ways of challenging some, and there will be enrichment opportunities for those students.”

The new $32 million building is full of technology and spaces for that enrichment, Tweedy said, such as music and art rooms, which can be utilized when teachers and administrators have determined how each student’s extra time should be used.

“I know the kids don’t like it, but it’s a good thing,” Tiffany Torain of Greenbelt said of the longer school day. “They get more time with their teachers to help with their studies. There’s nothing wrong with more time in the classroom.”

Asked if she was happy about the extra 40 minutes, Torain’s daughter, eighth-grader Kyileen Torain, 12, shook her head with a grimace.

“I get to wake up early,” she said.

At Nicholas Orem Middle School in Hyattsville, seventh-grader Blain Solomon said she is happy to be at school for an extra 40 minutes, as long as that extra time is spent on her favorite subjects.

“I like math, so I would like to be in math class longer,” said Blain, 12, of Adelphi.

Theresa Merrifield, Nicholas Orem’s new principal this year, said iPads — which each student has as part of a program to integrate technology into the entire curriculum — will be a major part of the intervention and enrichment period. Students will use software, she said, to improve math, science and reading skills.

“With the iPads, we can track their progress in real time,” Merrifield said, adding that the extra time used on core skills should help boost scores on standardized tests.

hnunn@gazette.net

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