Committee ponders SMART Lunch for high schools

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | May 19, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Tuscola High School students enjoy lunch in the cafeteria.

A steering committee that has been charged with researching schools for the Tuscola High School block schedule is hoping to implement about a new lunch system called SMART Lunch next year.

In January, Haywood County School officials began its plans to implement a four-period block schedule for Tuscola classes in August 2015 — the same schedule that has been in place at Pisgah High School since the 1990s.

The change in Tuscola’s schedule will include an extended class time with fewer class changes. Whereas instructors currently teach for 60 minutes to about five classes per day, the new block schedule would let instructors have 90 minutes of class time, and only teach about three classes.

Haywood County Schools Human Resources Director Carol Douglas, also a member of the steering committee, told Haywood County Board of Education members about SMART Lunch during a recent work session.

“We’re on track on block scheduling but we’ve gotten a little side tracked because everyone’s gotten so excited about SMART Lunch,” Douglas said. “The committee really latched onto this and really wants to go ahead with the smart lunch for next year.”

SMART (Students Maximizing Achievement Relationships and Time) Lunch will modify the traditional 30-minute lunch schedule so that every student and teacher in the school has a one-hour lunch period at the same time. Strict rules are in place regarding where students can and cannot eat. Part of the student population eats during the first 30 minutes while others are in SMART lunch. A bell rings after 30 minutes and they rotate.

During SMART lunch, students will receive tutoring, participate in enrichment activities, take make up tests, attend career conversations, meet with college admissions representatives, or participate in clubs and organizations. A schedule will be posted of the subject areas holding SMART lunch programs each day of the week.

SMART Lunch first began about five years ago at Panther Creek High School in Cary. While visiting the school, the block schedule steering committee noticed its unique lunch schedule and became very excited about it, Douglas said.

“It seems like a win-win from everything we’ve seen, and we’ve seen this at three different schools,” Douglas said, adding that the committee also observed the SMART Lunch at Kings Mountain High School in Cleveland County and Mountain Heritage High School in Yancey County. “And Pisgah wants to do this too. They’ve piggy backed with us and came to visit some of these schools, and they really liked it too.”

SMART Lunch would increase student achievement, increase opportunities for students to make good choices, and increase time for social interaction and to receive added assistance.

“It also increases opportunities for teachers,” Douglas said. “It gives them time to do their tutoring during the school day, rather than before or after school, which is really hard for kids with jobs, and kids who play sports.”

SMART Lunch would also allow teachers to work in their professional learning communities and would allow time to for teachers and students to meet for clubs or to hold pep rallies..

“This would help the morale of the school I would think, and it increases opportunities for student responsibility,” Douglas said. “It helps them make good choices to build respect, and to foster pride for their school.”

Bill Nolte, associate superintendent for Haywood County schools, encouraged parents and officials to not get distracted by the SMART Lunch. He reiterated that the block schedules would provide benefits to the school, such as a more stable curriculum for Tuscola students.

“If we’re all on the block and have a common framework in biology, in English II and math I, plus the reading and math and science at the elementary school — if they’re all on like schedules then that works and they can pace,” Nolte said. “And then if a kid moves from Pisgah to Tuscola, then they’re not losing credits because credits are different, and if they’re in biology at one school and move to the other school in biology and it’s paced at about the same, then they’re not going to learn same information twice or miss information.”

Douglas said the committee would like to begin the SMART Lunch next year so that it will already be in place once the block schedule takes effect in 2015.

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