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Massena Junior High Students May Soon See Big Changes To School Day


MASSENA -- Students at J.W. Leary Junior High may soon see big changes to the structure of their school day.

The Board of Education heard a proposal on April 16 that would change J.W. Leary Junior High’s school day to four 84-minute blocks, rather than the current eight 42-minute periods.

Leary principal Alan Oliver told the board that he believes it will help teachers engage more with students.

“It slows everything down, the kids have less classes, the teachers have less prep … hopefully more student-centered curriculum that allows teachers to dig deeper and engage more,” Oliver told the board.

He said he was not able to find any research showing either schedule form is more or less effective.

“There is no silver bullet in scheduling,” he said.

His proposal would not make every class 84 minutes. The week would be broken down into “red days” and “white days,” with 84-minute classes meeting on either one or the other, according to a document from Oliver, which is available at

Some classes would stay at 42 minutes. Each of the 84-minute blocks on both “red” and “white” days would be divided in half to accommodate that.

Physical education, math, science, some special education resource room and intervention classes would still be 42 minutes.

“Math feels that everyday practice is important in their subject so they have elected to meet daily, science is a course that is partnering with math so they can still meet daily. The math and science department have committed to also piloting the block version of the schedule for a period of time next year to see if they feel it can work for them,” Oliver wrote.

Classes that would meet for 84 minutes include social studies, English language arts, modern language (which includes French and Spanish), technology, art, family and consumer science, health and 12:1-1 special education classes.

“I could only sit still for so long and still be attentive. Is it built in for them to get up and move?

” school board trustee Kevin Peretta asked.

“You have to do a different type of instruction in a block schedule,” Oliver said, adding that he taught block classes at a former teaching job. “I loved it and it allows you to dig deeply. If you try to stand up there and lecture for 84 minutes, the kids won’t like it and neither will the teachers.”

“Nothing wrong with giving it a shot,” Peretta said.

“This is not a top-down thing ... it’s a product of collaboration between the teachers,” school board trustee Paul Haggett said. “There will have to be a good reason for it not to work.”

The board took no action on the proposal.


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