An inconvenience and waste of time, half days need to be eliminated

Half days are major inconveniences for students, teachers and parents alike. They must be removed from the calendar and replaced with an equal amount of full and non-instructional days.

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Half days are major inconveniences for students, teachers and parents alike. They must be removed from the calendar and replaced with an equal amount of full and non-instructional days.

By Michael Demske, Assistant News Editor

It is expected that students and teachers alike would support the idea of a half school day. Leaving school at 11:35 am and having the rest of the day free is an appealing prospect. But what used to be days for teacher planning and inclement weather, have turned into a joke and a waste of time.

In MCPS, half days cause the school day to be two and a half hours shorter ending at 12 pm. All class periods are shortened and are followed by a lunch period at the end of the day. The structure is designed to allow sufficient time in all classes while still giving teachers extra time at the end of the day to plan. 

While the idea is well-intentioned, half days are wildly inconvenient for a myriad of reasons. First, the lunch period at the end of the schedule makes it so some students have to stay longer than they should. Because lunch is part of the school day, buses coming after lunch ends leave some students waiting. While some students utilize the free lunch at school, there are alternatives that can be created that take the students who want to go home, home. Having two separate bussing groups would be plausible because the later group could be combined with a normal elementary school release.

Another issue that arises with half days is students skipping. The narrative that has been created and carried out is one of unproductivity. With dramatically shortened periods, there is no real work or learning being done in classrooms. Teachers commonly use half days as “catch up days”, hence making them useless. Why would students come to school just to sit through classes where no instruction is happening? 

In Palm Beach County, Florida, the Sun Sentinel found that there was a 12% increase in absences on half days compared to normal days. To combat this, the county removed half days from their calendar and replaced them with an even number of full days and days off. In a press statement the county said, “Students still get more minutes of instruction per year than required by state law.”

Half days are difficult for families in which both parents are working during school hours. With a release at noon, it can be a hassle for parents to find ways to pick up their children while they are at work. Not to mention athletes who have practice around three every day, creating weird time gaps on half days.

The most important reason why half days need to go is because of MCPS’s purpose of using them. MCPS claims that half days are used to give students mental health breaks. This idea is good in theory, however, it would make more sense to give students the whole day off.

It often seems like MCPS throws half days into the schedule to use up school days. In December, MCPS made Jan. 12, Mar. 24 and May 18 half days to, “Allow teachers and other staff members time for professional development and planning.” There was, however, no need for these days as there are plenty of days built into the year for that exact purpose. 

There are many possible alternatives to half days. To start, they should be replaced with some full days and some days off so that students are able to learn to the best of their abilities and the county can meet their hour requirement. These extra off days could come at the end of Thanksgiving, Winter or Spring break to provide teachers extra time to prepare.

If eliminating half days is not possible, another solution would be to allow the school to keep its facilities open until the normal school day release time. This would solve many problems because it allows students to use the whole day to be productive and provides parents time to get their children at a consistent time. 

The issues that half days create are too potent to ignore and require immediate action by the county. From logistical issues to the inconvenience and for the sake of students’ education and families’ livelihoods, there must be an end to half days.