Seneca school days to begin a bit earlier

Seneca High

On April 29, Seneca High School Principal Jeff Spector went before the Lenape Regional High School District Board of Education with a proposal to move Seneca’s start time from 7:52 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. in an attempt to cut down missed class time.

The board had very little problems with Spector’s proposal and quickly passed the resolution.

This will not be the first time Seneca’s start time will be 7:30 a.m. In 2003, the start time was also 7:30 a.m., but due to some problems with different bus routes, it was moved back, also moving the end time back later in the day as a result.

“The later start time has really had a negative impact on our students,” Spector said. “Not only on their overall well being but most importantly, on their academic achievements.”

Student athletes miss their 13th period once a week on average, and a marking period lasts anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks.

However, the greater impact is arguably on the teachers because almost all of the teachers coach at some level.

Coaching responsibilities such as supervising locker rooms and organizing busses result in teachers having to leave earlier than the students do, thereby impacting every student in the building when a coach or a teacher has to leave class early.

Student athletes will also often stay after school to receive extra help when they miss this class time.

“The students who actually need the help are having their time disrupted by the students that are just making up the class that was previously missed,” Spector said.

This is a cycle that continues throughout a season primarily due to away games in which the team has to leave early to travel.

By reducing the student athletes’ missed class time, Seneca will be able to get the kids who need the help that help and the athletes back in class.

Spector proposed the start time be moved from 7:52 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and the end time to be moved from 2:44 p.m. to 2:27 p.m., which matches two other schools in the district’s current bell schedule.

Seneca has the latest start time in the county, by far. There is no other school in the county that ends later than 2:30 p.m.

An example of these times negatively affecting a student occurred recently with a field hockey player who was taking pre calculus. The class was taught by a soccer coach, and in a 45-day marking period, either the coach or the player was not in that class 27 of those times.

“If it was four days, I would consider it too many,” Spector said. “Twenty-seven is way too many.”

This is a unique example because the team was playing in the postseason due to its success. However, as 27 may be a high example, more than 20 occurrences is very common for many student athletes or coaching teachers not being in class.

Also, because Seneca is a small school, there are times in which it cannot offer a continuing course such as an upper level math or science, so students will often go to Shawnee to take that course. Seneca will now be able to do this electronically due to the matching start times of two other district schools.

The four-way intersection at Russo’s on Carranza Road and Medford Lakes Road was another topic of discussion. It’s about a 19-minute wait after 7:30 a.m. if you get stuck there. Part of this is because Seneca’s start time is very similar to that of Tabernacle elementary schools.

“It becomes a logjam of their busses coming in and out and our busses coming in and out,” Spector said.

What Spector acknowledged as the most important part of this time change was the students having more time to themselves as they will get home earlier.

“When we talked to our students, parents and teacher, the kids missing too much class time was the top concern of all three of these groups,” Spector said.

The overall goal is to reduce stress and to have the students and teachers be in the classroom more often.

Moving forward, there will still be a bit of time missed during 13th period for student athletes during specific away games because of the long travel distance Seneca has from other schools, but not nearly as much as it did before the schedule changes.

“We will reduce missed class time by an estimated 91–92 percent as a result of the start time change,” Spector said. “That’s pretty significant.”