Sands and North Delta Secondary students will be getting extra time to study this year, thanks to the implementation of “flex time,” an additional class of student-led learning.
“In school, maybe outside of school too, kids’ lives are so predetermined by adults,” Aaron Akune, principal of Sands Secondary, said.“One of the things we always say is if we’re preparing kids for life beyond high school, they need to be able to make some decisions on their own and they need to take some self-responsibility.
“If we don’t give them the opportunity to do it at school, when and where else are they going to learn it?”
The idea behind flex time, Akune and vice-principal Joanna Macintosh said, was to give students a chance to take ownership of their learning time.
The 42-minute block will be added into Sands schedule between the first and second block of the day, four times a week.
During it, students will be able to get additional help from a teacher, work on collaborative projects, or catch up in subjects where they feel they need more help.
Simar Anand was a Grade 12 at Delview Secondary when the school instituted flex time last year. She found flex time “actually provided me with a lot of time to work towards those online courses,” she said. “I personally found that very very helpful.”
Anand said it would have been even more helpful if she had flex time in Grade 11.
“It’s a big transition, I feel, from Grade 10 to Grade 11, because suddenly your science classes are split up … and then the math is harder,” she said. “In Grade 11, that 45 minutes gives you time to work towards those courses.
“I know if I was in Grade 11 and I had flex time that year, I think it would have helped me greatly.”
On Facebook, some North Delta residents raised questions and concerns about the proposed flex time.
These concerns primarily revolved around the reduced amount of time in each class to create the additional block — at Sands, classes will be going from an hour and 20 minutes down to an hour and nine minutes — and the potential for students to skip the class.
According to Macintosh, flex time won’t be taking any instructional time away from the students. Rather, it will be “consolidating some of the work time.”
“I don’t see that teachers are solidly teaching at a board for eighty minutes of time,” she said.
During flex time, the potential for skipping is real, Akune said, but the administrators are planning to keep an eye on students.
“It many ways, the role for us is going to be quite busy,” Akune said. “Now we have an extra class change, and an extra class change where it’s possible that a kid could try and test us at the beginning and try to sneak out the back door.”
To mitigate that possibility, students have to be in a classroom for flex time — a challenge Anand found at Delview when certain teachers were in high demand.
“You really need to get to a classroom on time,” she said. “You need to be a in a classroom by the time the bell rings … and sometimes certain classes would be full and you wouldn’t be able to get to a teacher you wanted to get help from.”
Classes during flex time will still have to operate under current class size constraints, and students will have to get help from teachers they already have on their timetable.
Overall, Anand said, few students actually skipped flex time.
“Flex time actually ended up being a lot of fun,” Anand said.
“You got to sit with your friends. You could study in groups. If you wanted to, they also gave you the opportunity to go to the gym. You could shoot around basketballs, that was something people chose to do. You could chit chat with your friends while you did your homework.
“You don’t really get that freedom in the classrooms.”
How flex time will turn out for Sands and North Delta Secondary — which operate on linear and semester-based schedules respectively — is up still up in the air.
“We know there’s going to be some hiccups, there’s no doubt with logistics and everything,” Akune said.
“We’re going to take it slowly and go baby steps.”