LPS Adds Monthly Early Release Days

Shreya Kesarwani

Starting in November, Lexington Public Schools implemented monthly early release days for middle and high school students to ease the transition to in-person learning.

Dr. Julie Hackett, the Superintendent of LPS, created the proposal in October after receiving feedback from faculty members in Lexington and considering national concerns about the quality of education during the pandemic. The administration aims to use these half days to reduce the pressure teachers and students have faced in the past few months when adjusting to the full return to school in a pandemic environment.

“The teaching and learning process is far more challenging and time-consuming during a pandemic. Typically well-adjusted students may be struggling, as they transition back to an education that resembles pre-COVID times … Educators are pressed for time to consult with colleagues and meet the complex needs of their students,” Hackett said.

After discussions, the School Committee approved the proposal with a 5-0 vote, Hackett’s message resonating with the other members of the committee.

“I was a high school teacher, so I remember what that pressure is like. You’re in school with your students teaching all day. Then, you have papers to grade, have lessons to plan, and need to talk to parents. When does all that happen? Anything we can do to make it easier for them ultimately benefits the students,” Kathleen Lenihan, Chair of the School Committee, said.

The effects of the pandemic exacerbated the pressures already placed upon teachers.

“We really have this expectation that things are going to be normal this year, but life is still not normal. It still requires a lot of flexibility on the part of your teachers to figure out how we are still doing this. All of that requires preparation. It takes time,” Lenihan said.

The early release days aim to reduce the burden on teachers. However, many question whether these early release days provide sufficient time for instructors to prepare adequate lesson plans.

“This is about giving the teachers a little bit of time. It is not enough. It’s never enough, but it is something. And something is better than nothing,” Lenihan said.

Based on reactions from the faculty, the new policy seems to be effective for teachers. In addition, it has received a positive response from the student body.

“Everyone needs an opportunity to relax at the end of the week, and I think it is a good addition that they made this year. I personally have activities after school, so having those early release days allows me to relax before those,” Sitara Mitragotri, a sophomore, said.

The long-term effectiveness of the calendar change can only be seen with time, but many remain optimistic.

“This is really about giving teachers the time they need to do their job. That is, giving teachers a tool to help them be better prepared to be better teachers, which ultimately helps the students,” Lenihan said.