Algonquin may lose homeroom: the debate of 990 hours

Riley Garand, Staff Writer

Teachers and administrators are exploring ways to meet the Massachusetts standard of  990 hours of instructional learning time a year, and have already changed exam schedules and may eliminate homeroom in order to do so.

“The state requires 180 days of school and 990 hours of instructional time; we are short of that mark,” Assistant Principal Paul DiDomenico said. “One thing we have been looking at is the value of homeroom and possibly cutting that and absorbing it into the other classes. Every minute [in a school day] equals three hours [180 days times one minute equals 3 hours for the whole year] in the calculation leading up to 990. Each homeroom is five minutes which means those minutes in the whole year would be equivalent to 15 hours.”

DiDomenico continued, “In addition we would lose the passing time from homeroom to period one which is an additional five minutes and  that would be another 15 hours. So essentially by losing homeroom there would be 30 hours of instructional time added to the year.”

DiDomenico added that the school is currently at about 963 hours, and that the hours are short of the state requirement because of issues like snow days and with half days.

”If we can’t get credit for it [homeroom], it becomes another matter or issue we should think about,” Principal Tom Mead said. “Every class is [considered] instruction; also our studies are referred to as Directed Studies, so if a student has a study hall on their schedule the state Department of Education has largely determined that it is actually good time for teaching and learning to happen.”

Multiple teachers and some students are concerned about the possibility of losing homeroom.

“Personally, it [990 hour requirement] seems almost kind of like an arbitrary measure of time on learning and it really brings into perspective the question of, well what does quality time in school mean? What is the state’s interpretation of that? What is our interpretation of that?” English teacher Seth Czarnecki said. “My idea of quality learning in school is building the social and collateral aspects and building relationships and connecting students with students, along with teachers with students.”

“I like homeroom,” business education teacher Patricia Riley said. “We [the teachers] get to learn about the kids throughout the four years. You really get to know them well.”

However other staff members think homeroom could be sacrificed to help meet the state requirements.

“Obviously it’s [homeroom] important,” guidance counselor Katherine Mulcahy said. “It’s nice to see the bonds the students make while being in the same homeroom with each other for all four years.Other schools who don’t have homeroom are still able to have students make bonds. I think they would adjust fairly quickly if we took away homeroom to meet the 990 hours.”

“I see it as a feasible way to gain a decent amount of minutes in the day because it’s not just the five minute homeroom, it’s the five minute passing time, so when you gain ten minutes a day that seems like a logical solution,” English Department Chair Jane Betar said.

“I would not mind losing homeroom because I feel like a lot of homeroom time is spent with people sitting around on their phones and not listening to the announcements, so if I could get five more minutes with my students in class I think that might be bit more beneficial to learning,” biology teacher Genevieve Jackson said.

Many students are concerned about losing homeroom.

“I think it [losing homeroom] would be very disappointing; I love homeroom,” junior Jay Rizzatano said. “I do a lot of homework in it and talk to my friends.”

“I think it’s [losing homeroom] kind of stupid, solely because I think it makes more sense to meet up in the morning, getting everything squared away; it’s also an easy way of getting attendance too,” sophomore Nate Hall said.

“We could also conceivably get credit for homeroom itself as a place where good things academically happen,” Mead said.”I want to ask the question, of both teachers and students, who are very familiar with the way we do homeroom. I want to ask them the question of is homeroom a valuable thing in their lives? Has it meant a difference and been important to them? We’ll probably ask about thirty six teachers and all the seniors we can find and then we’ll look at the results and share the results with the entire school.”

In addition to possibly eliminating homerooms, the midterm and final exam schedules have been modified to help meet time on learning.

“One thing we have done is modify the mid-term schedule to make use of those full days instead of those half days,” DiDomenico said.“The big thing is that you have an opportunity for students to learn so we have extended those days, the final and midterm days with the exception of the last day [of exams].”

Administrators are also looking at passing time between classes too.

“Some things considered include shortened passing time, but our fear with that is that right now it’s five minutes; if you make passing time four minutes it could mess things up a little bit,” DiDomenico said. “A seemingly minor move can have larger repercussions that can infringe upon classroom time and that’s what we don’t want.”