If you work downtown, you may have noticed that every other Friday, there were groups of high school students flocking Lawrence Avenue.
Of the 15 Fridays this year, students had a half day on eight of them. However, that pattern has concluded. For the Ellwood City Area School District, this school year has no more than usual half days, but they were grouped into the first three months. The next half day won’t be until May.
While for students, half days mean less school, for teachers, they mean Act 80 days with several hours of training. According to Superintendent Joe Mancini, the district had a heavy load of training courses for faculty this year, and the administration decided to front end it.
This year, training for state and federal mandates ranged from child abuse reporting, suicide prevention and the Educator Discipline Act, which concerns teacher misconduct. In addition, the district had several technology updates that required teacher training, including Google classroom software program, a new online grading system, a new reading instructional program and a dyslexia grant.
Another reason for the half day placement involves the weather. There cannot be two-hour delays on half days, only cancellations, and the Act 80 must still be made up. It also allows students to enjoy the afternoon.
For local eateries, half days bring a boom to business. Bob Rivers, owner of National Grind coffee shop, commented that half days are great for several downtown businesses.
“The kids that come here cause no problems, and we’re happy to give them a place to hang out,” Rivers said.
Breaking Bread owner Sam Kelly said peanut waffles and Oreo milkshakes were popular items for students on half days.
Placing the half days on Friday also helped students involved in football season.
“It made it easier for football players, cheerleaders and band members, because they didn’t have to rush to get ready before some of the games,” Christopher Brandt, a sophomore at Lincoln High, said.
On the adverse end, for parents of elementary students, the abundance of half days can make it difficult for child care arrangements. At the school board meeting on Dec. 3, visitor and parent Stephanie Cameron said the early dismissals were difficult for working parents and asked why there had been so many half days. School board member Mike Neupeuar said his wife had asked him the same question.
After Mancini explained the training, Cameron countered that she is a teacher in another district, and they did not need as many.
In addition, she expressed dissatisfaction with the frequency of movies and recess in elementary school.
“I feel like, ‘why did I send my kids to school?'” Cameron said.