Longer School Day For Some Arkansas Students Beginning Next Year

FEBRUARY 10, 2004 -- Posted at: 11:10pm

JONESBORO, AR - This year's high school seniors are squeaking out of it, but it's already been decided that next year, Arkansas seniors will have longer school days. Usually gaining enough credits, mixed with a senior status results in shorter school days during Arkansas students' final year, but that won't be the case for Nettleton Junior Sara Van Winkle.

"Well it's the one thing you look forward to about senior year," said Van Winkle, as she sat in chemistry class during 7th and final period.

Many Juniors must think acid rain is falling on their parade of privileges, because beginning the 2004-2005 school year all students must stay in class for at least 350 minutes each day. The change could be a problem for some districts, especially those who let seniors go home during lunch.

Carroll Thetford, Principal at Nettleton High School explained, "So some of the schools will be scrambling, trying to figure out what classes those students will get into."

At Nettleton, one thought is to add a Family and Consumer Science class to teacher Joyce Glenn's day; giving students a chance to learn more about life skills.

"..and I think that the students are gonna be better prepared when they go out," added Glenn, "because if they're seniors, it's like they're getting an easy ride there on their last year, and if they intend to go to college, you know, that may not be what they need. They've kind of gotten out of the habit of studying."

About half of Nettleton's 135 Seniors currently go home before their 7th and final period. The rest are involved in athletics, band or another subject, or are a teacher's aide. Family and Consumer Science is a class Sara Van Winkle will consider adding next year. She understands that educators want students to devote more time to studying.

"It's still disappointing," admitted Van Winkle.

She would rather have a study hall, but those sessions aren't allowed at Nettleton Schools, so she said she'll just have to make do. A waiver may be granted for a student who would experience a proven financial hardship because of this law. Another new law for next year will require a school to approve a student's job before they could get out early for work-study programs.