Willmar Senior High’s Zero Hour gives everyone a chance to get caught up
WILLMAR -- Any other day of the week, the commons area of Willmar Senior High would be empty and quiet after 8 a.m. But on Wednesday, it's Zero Hour, and things are a bit more relaxed. Groups of students visit in the cafeteria, talk quietly in th...
WILLMAR - Any other day of the week, the commons area of Willmar Senior High would be empty and quiet after 8 a.m.
But on Wednesday, it’s Zero Hour, and things are a bit more relaxed. Groups of students visit in the cafeteria, talk quietly in the halls or play games in the gym.
Zero Hour offers a break in routine for the school’s teachers and students.
Teacher meetings take place from 7:15 to 8:50 a.m. on Wednesdays. That lets them get all their staff meetings out of the way in one day and allows them to be available to meet with students before or after school the rest of the week.
A wide variety of activities are available to students from 7:30 to 8:50 a.m.
Some are required to come early, if they have late homework, missed a quiz or need to do time in detention or in-school suspension.
For students who aren’t required to be there but arrive early on buses, the school offers tutoring for those who want it, and SMART Club meets. Students can also work on group projects or study quietly in the media center.
It’s a chance for others to sneak in some extra rehearsal time in the music department or to play a pickup basketball game in the gym. Some kids visit with friends over breakfast in the cafeteria. Others visit in the commons area.
Students who are caught up on all their work and have their own way to get to school don’t have to be there until classes start at 9 a.m.
“It’s really an opportunity, whether to extend learning or to get help,” said Assistant Principal Scott Hisken as he watched students visit in the hall.
One need the school has is more students willing to be peer tutors. “We are looking for more seniors and juniors willing to get up early,” Hisken said. Student tutors are paid, and “it’s a chance to make a difference,” he added.
Emma Roux, a junior, said she liked the idea of sleeping in, even though she was there early for a recent Zero Hour. “I didn’t have a ride,” she said.
Emma visited with Jolissa Lara, Gaby Jasso and Yami Jimenez just outside the cafeteria.
The girls said they liked the extra time on Wednesday mornings. “You have time to finish homework,” Jolissa said.
In the cafeteria, a group of ninth-grade boys were finishing a breakfast of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and juice with their iPads on the table in front of them. They have enjoyed the chance to hang out before school, they said.
“I think it’s fun,” said Eli Smith.
“You can get work done or play games,” said Keith Moyers. “I just finished my work, so now I’m playing games.”
Students are allowed to load games on their school-issue iPads, within reason. Some of the boys also played games on their cell phones.
At SMART Club in the school’s media center, students were working on their own or with volunteer peer tutors.
Ninth-grader Paige Rende and senior Katarina Gazelka were working together on algebra. They were discussing the order of operations that would help Paige complete her algebra work.
Paige said she likes Zero Hour because it gives her a chance to go over her work with a tutor before school. Paige said she was worried about remember the order for algebra, but Katarina said, “You’ve got it down.”
Cultural liaisons Jeanette Oehlers and Mohamed Hassan were overseeing the SMART Club this week with about a dozen students in it. Some weeks, they have as many as 25 to 30, Oehlers said.
“I think kids feel better when they leave,” she said.
The liaisons help the school stay in touch with parents who aren’t fluent in English, but the SMART Club they run is open to any student seeking academic help.
Oehlers said they are busier this year with the Zero Hour subject, trying to reach parents to talk about the new schedules and how their children are doing with the changes.