Added early release days affect LISD students and staff


The school board added early release days for the 2022-23 academic year for teachers to participate in professional learning community (PLC) time. The change was discussed in a Jan. 10 board meeting after input was gathered from a community survey and calendar committee. The PLC days, Sept. 2, Oct. 7 and Feb. 17, are designated for staff to discuss curriculum development and collaborate with other schools.

“When you’re a teacher, so much of your time is interrupted by other things and to have two to three hours [of planning time] is really good,” math department chair Cameron Casalini said.

Previously, the school staff met before and after school for PLC time, but teachers with extra duties were unable to attend. The need for more collaboration time became more apparent during the pandemic. This year, COVID-19 restrictions have settled down, but there are still a few vacancies. The English department has one unfilled teacher position that it has a substitute for. The PLC days have provided teachers time to discuss solutions for these issues.

“Our long term substitute [attends the] PLC,” English department chair Donna Friend said. “[She’s seen] the long term plans. [We discuss] the big unit ideas and when the major assessments are coming up so we’re trying to support her in that way too.”

The additional early release days were placed before three day weekends to give teachers the most time to plan. However, they also fall on the same dates as football home games, which significantly decreased football attendance, principal Amy Boughton said.

“We saw a pretty big dip in ticket sales,” Boughton said. “We don’t have as many students that show up on a Friday night if we have a half day because people go out of town, they do stuff with [their] families [or they hang out] with their friends, whereas if we had a full day of school, a lot of people would hang around and go to the games.”

The planning time provided by PLC days has allowed teachers to prepare instruction after conference periods were shortened by mandated hall duty. The periods are 30 minutes shorter than what they used to be due to updated security measures that require all teachers to monitor the hallways.

“We barely have conference periods this semester,” Gorham said. “I think it really impacts teachers that [have just arrived], because they’re the ones that really need that team environment to not just duplicate what other teachers are doing, but to get all the different perspectives, to put their opinions into the mix and see [how] the other teammates who have already acclimated to this environment respond to it.”

A survey of 50 students conducted by The Hawk Eye showed that students benefited from the additional half-days, using it mainly for leisure or to study. In it, 32% said that the shorter class times that come with the additional days have been disadvantageous, especially in AP and honors classes. The PLC days have provided teachers additional time to improve instruction and students more time outside the classroom.

“The goal is to become better educators so the students can become more successful,” Casalini said. “The more people that we meet with, the more ideas that we get, the more options we have to present options to the students.”