by Marty Estrin
When we look at school start and end times, we have to take a good look at ourselves. Let’s be frank, we’re biased. Most of us instantly come to the conclusion that school is long enough as is and, by doing so, neglect the reality of the situation.
As of now, Northwest Yeshiva High School (NYHS) runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays. This adds to a total of a 38 hour week and generally 8 hour days. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average school day for high schools in the United States is 6.8 hours. Do not let this mislead you. We must consider the amount of time that is spent on Judaic Studies at Northwest Yeshiva. NYHS brands itself as a dual curriculum school, meaning that although Judaic classes are highly valued, college preparatory classes should be equally important. It’s evident, however, that general studies at NYHS haven’t been valued enough. While most schools devote 6.8 hours (on average) to their general studies programs, NYHS is far from this amount. In fact, based on my own schedule, I along with many of my freshman contemporaries, have as little as four and a half hours of general studies classes on certain days of the week.
This becomes even more appalling if you take into account that two of these superb classes (Hebrew and Jewish History) wouldn’t be taught in non Jewish schools and, arguably, could be considered Judaics classes. Based on this, one could say that I have as little as two hours and forty five minutes of college preparatory classes on some days. This is not only shocking, but also unacceptable. As a school that considers itself committed to academic excellence, changes must be made. NYHS’s current start and end times prevent students from gaining the proper learning to achieve mastery in given subjects, excel in certain fields, and compete in a competitive world environment.
Lastly, NYHS’s school day is not just short when compared to the average school, but also when compared to many other modern Orthodox Jewish high schools. Other modern Orthodox schools recognize the need for a longer school day to compensate for the time spent on Judaics, so why can’t we? By extending our hours, we can continue to enjoy a strong Judaics program while also having enough time for a thriving and enriching college prep.
Yes, I do recognize that students benefit from extracurriculars, and it is definitely important to have a good work/life balance. So, longer days may harm students who are already very busy and don’t have a lot of free time.
However, the fact of the matter is, Northwest Yeshiva High School’s (NYHS) current start and end times are not only outdated, but are detrimental to students’ learning opportunities. As students of a school that values student engagement, we must take initiative to improve our education. The reality is that the pros outway the cons; if we need to sacrifice our work/life balance in order to better our education, so be it. If students practice proper time management, they will be more than capable of balancing extended school hours.
I therefore conclude that we are in serious need of extending school hours. In order to properly learn core subjects, master them, and compete with our contemporaries in other schools, we must create more time for core classes. It may be an unpopular decision, but I beg the question, which would we rather have, a couple more hours of leisure or an enriching education? If you are truly invested in your academic future, you will recognize our need for an extended school day.