Clover students may have flexible learning options in their future

Clover students may soon have more time to get extra help in classes and take advantage of school activities.

The Clover school district is considering implementing a Flexible Learning Experience, or Flex, program that gives students dedicated time during the school day for make-up work, club meetings, career planning or other needs, said Bryan Dillon, public information officer for the district.

“The idea is to find the best way to meet the needs of all of our students,” Dillon said. “It helps them to take more ownership of their education as well.”

Flex time allows students who cannot stay after school or come before school because of transportation or work schedules to get extra academic help or take part in activities they may not otherwise be able to, said Clover High School Principal Rod Ruth.

“It’s a personalized learning approach that seeks to maximize the minutes of the school day for students for a variety of purposes,” Ruth said. “Students are so involved with so many things.”

On March 20, Ruth presented the idea to the Clover school board. He said board members gave positive feedback.

“If instituted, the Flex scheduling format could allow for more efficient use of instructional and extra-curricular (time) during the school hours, which is a benefit to all students,” said Mack McCarter, school board chair. “...It is important to make sure that if implemented that the district does everything possible to make sure that the program is suited to meet the varying needs of all students.”

Clover administrators plan to test Flex ideas during the last quarter of this school year, Ruth said.

“Optimal learning comes when it’s possessed by those actually doing the learning,” Ruth said.

In Fort Mill

During the first semester of this school year, Clover High School sent a team of administrators and teachers to Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Lexington high schools to see how Flex time is implemented. District officials have studied how the Flex model is growing across the state.

“Something that appeals to young people right now is the idea of personalization,” he said. “We want to pass on some of the ownership of student learning to the students.”

While the program may be called something different in each district, more high schools are offering flexibility to students, said Ryan Brown, chief communications officer for the S.C. Department of Education.

“Schools want to be student-centered learning environments that allow students to make their own informed decisions, as this is the situation they will face when they graduate high school,” he said. “Time management is a skill that is often a key to academic success at colleges and universities.”

The Fort Mill school district offers Flex time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in the form of a one-hour lunch period. Students can participate in tutoring, make-up testing and other academic activities, said Dee Christopher, Fort Mill High School principal. Fort Mill’s program is in its second year.

“We wanted an opportunity for students to get extra help during the school day,” he said. “The students have been very good at using that time wisely.”

Flex time means Fort Mill High School has had to manage 2,100 students roaming the school at one time, Christopher said. New technology and additional serving lines helps with the additional lunchtime load.

Christopher said Flex time is an option for students to get help, not a requirement, forcing students to take on some responsibility.

“This is a real-life opportunity for them to make good choices within the context of their school day,” Christopher said. “When they need help, they need to ask for it and take advantage of the opportunity we’ve given to them to do that during the school day.”

Nation Ford High School also uses Flex time for students to get academic help or participate in clubs, said Principal Jason Johns.

Flex time also allows teachers to meet with students outside of normal office hours, Christopher said. “Teachers get to help students immediately when they need it,” he said.

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082