More class time added for Thomas Jefferson students

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Starting with the 2014-15 school year, Thomas Jefferson High School students will follow a nine-period daily schedule instead of eight.

In addition, the number of credits students need to graduate will gradually increase over the next few years.

The school board unanimously approved those changes at its March 25 meeting.

''We are managing our time and utilizing it to give our kids the greatest of opportunities.

''It is another way to raise the bar of excellence in this district,'' board President Anthony Angotti said.

For the Class of 2015, 22.5 credits, or the same as in 2014, will be needed to graduate. For the Class of 2016, it will be 24 credits; for the Class of 2017, 25 credits; and for the Class of 2018, 26 credits.

Superintendent Michael Panza said the changes will enable students to take an eighth class without skipping lunch; and help them to graduate better equipped for the future.

''We don't want kids sitting in study halls," he said. ''We want to see them taking advantage of the opportunities. Raising the credits will match the increase in the additional educational opportunities they have.'' 

Before the vote, board member Darlene Schreiber said nine periods will allow students a 30-minute lunch while getting the minimum educational hours required in a more instructional manner.

''This is why we sit where we sit — to educate our kids,'' Mr. Angotti said.

Under the plan, there will be eight periods of 42 minutes, and a 30-minute lunch period instead of the current 43 minutes for lunch.

Students may choose a study hall for a period. The school day for grades 9-12 will begin 15 minutes earlier at 7:40 a.m., and end two minutes earlier at 2:28 p.m. Class periods will be one minute shorter than the current 43 minutes.

Students will begin their day in first period instead of home room. The first period will be 52 minutes, with the last 10 minutes serving as home room.

''We will start the day running instead of neutral,'' Mr. Panza said.

Mr. Angotti said adding the extra period will allow students to meet graduation requirements in-house.

''Some parents pay for their kids to take a computer class elsewhere because they could not fit it into their schedule, and a computer class is required for graduation.

''If we are offering it, they should be able to take it in our building,'' he said.

The addition of a ninth period also will allow students to pursue academic interests without giving up a lunch period, as some do.

''We have too many kids who sacrifice a lunch period to take all the classes to graduate. Others want to take additional courses, like [Advanced Placement] and the science courses. The extra period will open the door to take additional course offerings they are interested in,'' Mr. Angotti said.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:

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