7/2/2014 6:00:00 AM City schools to change 'Tornado Time' due to schedule conflicts
By CASEY GREENE
Philadelphia Middle and High schools will have students setting alarm clocks a few minutes earlier next year. Changes in scheduling have led to Tornado Time being moved to before first period.
The Philadelphia Public School Board of Trustees approved changes to the student handbook and schedule on June 17 that will move Tornado Time, a period of time during the middle of the day used as a study period, to 7:25 a.m. The period would last for approximately half an hour. A homeroom period from 8:10 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. would also be incorporated as a way to check attendance and dress code.
Tornado Time will be generally used for students in the lower 25 percentile of test scores, as well as all middle school students since they are tested and any SATP re-testers that did not pass their previous test. Students that have missed any work can also come during that time to complete that work.
Principal Jason Gentry said that the idea of incorporating a "zero block" as well as alleviating issues for students who wouldn't have their lunch scheduled until after 1 p.m. were contributing factors into changing Tornado Time.
This change affects all middle schoolers, since Tornado Time is mandatory for them, but Gentry also hopes to emphasize the importance of the program to high school students and their parents as it pertains to graduation rates.
Chiquita Jones, a member of the Philadelphia chapter of Parents for Public Schools that's being formed, is an advocate of Tornado Time, but hopes more information about the change will be available to parents.
Jones' questions include how students will get to school that much earlier and what factors went into the decision to make the change.
"My main concern would be access for students," Jones said. "I also want to know if they have approached any parents to see what they think about it, or if they have even talked with students about it."
The content and quality of Tornado Time is something Jones wants to make sure is not being sacrificed in these changes.
"I think we need to make sure that there are goals set and ways to measure those goals," Jones said. "It is important to work out a plan to achieve that outcome."
She also expressed that parents are more than willing to aid in efforts to improve their children's schooling.
"Parents really want to help in any way they can," she said. "When they are included in decisions, it helps everyone involved. If you have knowledge of what's going on, you can better help."