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Riverhead students, parents advocate for adding ninth period

What are high school students to do when they can’t squeeze all their advanced courses into eight class periods?

For some, the solution is simple: Add a ninth period to their daily schedule.

Riverhead High School students and parents advocated for just that at last Tuesday’s school board meeting. Their support for a ninth period was backed by board member Laurie Downs, who first suggested the change during the 2017-18 academic year.

“I want more honors courses, more AP courses, all of it,” she said at the meeting.

In a separate email, Ms. Downs said a ninth period had been implemented in the district around 2004, when ninth grade enrollment spiked. The extra period was dropped around 2013, she said, because enrollment declined and some students were taking multiple study halls.

It’s unclear how another class period would modify the bell schedule. Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said discussions have only been preliminary and it’s too soon to provide those details.

“If the district chooses to explore the possibility further, our school community will be informed and involved in the process,” she wrote Monday.

Senior student Quint Nigro said an additional class period would help students push themselves to their full potential.

“We have a lot of AP students, honors students and students who are trying to push themselves to get the best education they can — and they can’t, because they don’t have enough periods in the day,” he said.

Senior Julia Divan, who made the Top 15 students list earlier this year, said she wasn’t supported when she wanted to pursue advanced math courses. Earlier this year, she said, she reached the cap in the number of math courses she could take. Although Julia had an AP teacher who was eager and available to teach her differential equations, she said he couldn’t host a class with just one student.

“The best way to encourage younger students to take harder courses is to show them that they will be supported in their pursuits, and I just don’t feel that happened in my case,” Julia said. “I had to pay thousands of dollars to take a course from a third-party source. I don’t want that to happen to other students.”

At the meeting, Dr. Henriquez said no one objected to the additional class period when the idea came up last year.

“There were budgetary restraints, but I do recommend that we take another fresh look at it again and report back to you,” she told Quint.

Former school board president Ann Cotton-DeGrasse said she’s not opposed to the addition of a ninth period, but fears that expanded services might force a budget that pierces the tax cap.

Melissa Britt of Calverton, whose two daughters graduated from Riverhead High School, said she wants the board to understand that high school students are under immense pressure and some of them require another period.

“I understand about budgets and study halls, but I also want you to understand what these students are going through day-to-day,” Ms. Britt said. “You need to renegotiate your priorities on what’s important: these students.”

The high school currently runs on an eight-period schedule: the warning bell rings at 7:10 a.m., first period starts at 7:15 a.m., and eighth period wraps at 2 p.m. Each period is roughly 47 minutes.

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