Education

New morning news show at Riverhead H.S. in works as district plans expansion to nine periods

Riverhead High School students may soon have the opportunity to hone their broadcast skills in a student-run morning news show to update classmates on daily morning announcements.

High School principal Sean O’Hara discussed the program during a presentation on expanding to a nine-period day, a proposal pitched in November. Mr. O’Hara and several other administrators discussed the potential nine-period day for both the high school and middle school during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Mr. O’Hara said while periods would decrease from 47 to 41 minutes, the first period would run 46 minutes long to accommodate the time for the morning announcements.

“Our goal is to move to a morning news show that will be produced by students and delivered by students,” Mr. O’Hara said. “We have many students who are interested in broadcasting and who would love to have the opportunity to develop their skills and become a voice for our students in a broadcasting role; the morning announcements will help provide them with that venue.”

The school district last had a nine-period day in 2013-14 before it was shortened due to budget cuts.

The presentation covered everything from bell schedules, proposed new elective courses and a student scheduling timeline that would ensure the district was on track to implement the nine-period day for the 2022-2023 school year starting in September, if approved by the BOE.

At the high school, more than 30 new, half and full-year, elective course proposals were discussed.

“In order to implement all these exciting new courses, we do have funds available to pay our teachers to do some curriculum writing outside of the school day so that we can be fully prepared for September implementation,” said Christine Tona, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The electives discussed included freshman seminar, sports medicine, bioethics, literature of genocide, the Latin American experience, Blue Wave news, and others.

After the presentation, board member Colin Palmer congratulated the building principals and guidance department for providing such a broad range of electives for the students.

“Specifically jumping out at me was seeing literature of genocide and bioethics as well as freshman seminar… usually courses are about the who, what, when, where and how,” Mr. Palmer said. “These are courses that are about the ‘why’ which is kind of at the heart of education and I’m just hoping to see even more of that in the future. I think that that’s a great direction to be going in.”

To implement these courses there will need to be an additional 12-15 full-time equivalents hired at the high school, according to Ms. Tona.

At the middle school, one new course was proposed: Library and Information Skills.

“This is a new course that we are proposing that would offer students instruction in searching for information, locating sources, evaluating, and presenting research and data and ultimately supporting students in all of their classes with this information,” middle school principal Stephen Hudson said.

Otherwise, the nine-period day would give the school the chance to ensure that all students achieve their New York State Education Department requirements in classes like Technology, Family and Consumer Science, Health, Visual Arts and Music, the principal said.

“Unfortunately, not all students are able to participate in all aspects of these curriculums,” Mr. Hudson said. “With a nine-period day, we not only would be able to implement these courses but ensure that all students achieve these requirements prior to leaving the middle school,” he said.

Ms. Tona said there will need to be three to four full-time equivalents at the middle school for the expansion.

Charles Gassar, director of guidance, presented a timeline of classroom presentations by guidance counselors and course selection meetings that will run from through June to ensure these changes would be implemented by September in both buildings if the nine-period day is approved. 

The BOE will be provided a course selection booklet and will be voting on them at an upcoming meeting. The date for that was not specified in the presentation.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore said bringing back the nine-period day was a “tremendous undertaking.”

“But it’s an undertaking that we’ve all been excited about,” he said.