The Ins and Outs of Half Days

At Hopkinton High School, there are seven scheduled early release or dismissal days in the 2017/2018 schedule. This is the same amount as the 2016/2017 school year, but one more than the previous two school years.

Of those seven days, two are early dismissals. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the last day of school are both early dismissals. There is always one early release in May for prom. The other four are scheduled throughout the year and often shifted to different weeks or months between school years. For example during the 2016/2017 school year, no early releases occurred in October, but in the 2017/2018 year one does.

The Massachusetts Education law states that students must be in school for 180 days and 990 hours for the education to count as a complete year. Mathematically, this would allow for 30 half days and 150 full days if no other time was lost.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website, “shortened days may count toward the 180 school day requirement, but only the actual time spent on structured learning time can count towards the student learning time requirement.” Half days count as a full day when counting total days of school, but in the hour total, they do not count for as much as a normal day.

Within the school, teachers and students use the extra time in a variety of ways.

Senior Emily Taylor said, “I usually go out and get food with friends, or just go home and hang out. I occasionally use the time to do homework, but normally the early release is on a Friday so I usually don’t do any school work then.

Senior Emily Taylor

Opposing Taylor’s view, Senior Chris Pomeroy said, “I often do homework or get some extra band practice in.” Pomeroy likes to get his homework done early in the weekend, giving him the rest of it as free time.

For teachers, early releases offer them time in which they can get work done or meet with their departments.

AP Psychology teacher Michael Hamilton said that the social studies department will meet, “Typically [we] have the two hours as planned by [Mr. Sullivan].” During that time, the department works on their “initiative”—a focus that changes year to year.

“This year, one of the initiatives is writing our curriculum and updating our curriculum into a new shareable format,” said Hamilton. Each department in the school uses this time to do whatever may suit them best.

“I would love more half days. I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to have as many as we can fit into the schedule,” Pomeroy said.

Senior Chris Pomeroy

Taylor said that she wants more half days, but understands “that they take time away from the schooling and that it wouldn’t make sense to only meet requirements on schooling time.”

From a teacher’s point of view, Hamilton said, “More time with students would be wonderful.” He finds half days somewhat annoying because they pull away his time with students which he “always wants more.”

Hamilton also added, “Our schedule needs more time with students, but we also have initiatives we need to undertake.”

He believes it’s critical to find a balance so that teachers may spend the most time with students while also being prepared for their classes. He pointed out that Hiller Days seemed to be helping with this balance, giving teachers time to prepare without pulling away too much time from the students.