A discussion of how Power Hour was implemented this year.
BY GRETA MILLER, ’23 AND ELENA FERNANDEZ, ’23. GRAPHICS BY DAPHNE BONILLA, ’22 AND LUCY O’BRIEN ’22. PHOTO BY BELLA VANMETER, ’22.
For UAHS students and staff, the start of the school year was eventful with a new school building, improvised parking and a new lunch hour program. It was nerve-wracking for many members of UAHS to develop a parking strategy given the uncertainty of spaces and navigate a new building to find their classrooms. Then came UAHS’s prototype lunch hour program—Power Hour. Power Hour challenged students to adapt to a new form of lunch where they needed to vary their choices of eating times and participate in alternative activities offered during the hour in order to open up space for others to eat. Since that first day of school, the administration worked to create new and improved versions of lunch, with staff and students having both negative and positive experiences.
WHAT WAS POWER HOUR, AND WHY WAS IT IMPLEMENTED?
Power Hour was originally created to give students options during a structured school day.
“The concept of Power Hour is really just about providing time within students’ days. Students have relatively structured days with their classes, so Power Hour [was a] flexible time in their day to do a number of different things. They [had] options,” principal Andrew Theado said.
There were three main reasons why Power Hour was created. First, prior to the pandemic, office hours were on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons with either an early release or late arrival for students who do not attend those office hours. That time out of school equated to roughly one lost hour per week for each student that had to be reported to the Ohio Department of Education. Over the course of a year, those hours add up, and a way to solve this problem was to embed office hours into lunch, since lunch hours are not reported. Second, many students could not participate in clubs because of sports, jobs or family obligations after and before school. If the school day were to allow for club participation during such times like Power Hour, more students would be given the opportunity to get involved. Lastly, offering one universal lunch time would allow for students to eat with anyone, whereas prior to COVID-19, the lunch hour was broken into two periods, and at the beginning of each school year, students would try to change their schedules to have lunch with their friends. Power Hour was designed to help students avoid truancy reporting problems, participate in clubs and eat lunch with whomever they wanted.
“Power Hour [helped] to address all of those in theory. In practice, it is a little bit more challenging because we are undoing some habits,” Theado said.
POWER HOUR VERSION #1
The first version of Power Hour started at the beginning of the year when students and staff were working to get settled into the new building. At the start, many students wanted to spend their Power Hour time eating and talking with friends, but with everybody not diversifying their activities, there was a large number of students eating lunch at the same time. Power Hour version #1 was quickly brought to a stop due to the lack of furniture and too many students in one spot at the same time.
“If I had to do it over again, we would not have started with Power Hour because the first week of school you aren’t really digging deep into academics; you’re not really necessarily seeking out the academic support that you are right now,” Theado said.
Some students have voiced their opinions about Power Hour, and some students have kept their opinions to themselves. Others are indifferent and do not have an opinion regarding Power Hour at all.
“I like the concept of Power Hour which gives us time to socialize or have office hours, but it’s very frustrating that there isn’t enough seating for everyone to stay in their same spot for the whole period,” junior Sanay Tufekci said.
A&B SPLIT LUNCH
To immediately address the Power Hour confusion and calm the situation, Theado changed the lunch hour scheduling after only four days. The change involved splitting 4th period into A and B groups based on where each 4th period class was located in the building. Group A ate during the 4a period, and Group B ate lunch during the 4b period. This approach, having halved the number of students flowing into the common areas at once, immediately allowed for students to find seating easily and remain there the entire period. While meeting the lunch time space needs of students, this method does not easily allow for clubs to gather as a whole, for students to eat with anyone or for lunch time office hours—creating the need for office hours after school and forcing the administration to report missed hours to the ODE.
POWER HOUR VERSION #2
An additional solution the student body and staff experienced was a second version of Power Hour where there was a split of the lunch time into two groups based on grade level. Upperclassmen who wanted to sit and socialize were given priority to eat during the first 30 minutes of lunch, while the lowerclassmen who wanted to sit and socialize gathered in the competition gym, and vice versa during the second half of lunch. For the students who did not choose to sit and socialize, they could attend whichever half worked best for them based on what they wanted to do.
“Really any student, any grade, can choose which session to eat based on what they want to do. So really when we talk about priority we are talking about the students who just want to sit and socialize, [those] who want to sit down and eat and hang out that whole time; that is when we are talking about priority,” Theado said.
This scenario allowed for adequate space for students, and with all students in a free period during that time, office hours were to be implemented. The biggest negative to this approach was that students had to move halfway through the period to participate in the other activities offered whether it is office hours, lifting or talking with friends in the gym; they could not sit and eat for the whole lunch hour.
UAHS staff and students have also experienced an alternation of lunch versions throughout one week: three days of A&B Split Lunch and two days of Power Hour version #2. This approach brought both positives and negatives to students and staff throughout a week. The three days of A&B split lunch allowed for a few days of staying in the same spot all lunch, and the two days of Power Hour allowed for office hours within lunch—effectively solving the reporting problems, lunchtime club meetings and for students to sit with a majority of the student body. However, this scenario included mid-week schedule changes for half of students. Members of the A split lunch group would eat lunch at different times throughout the week depending on the lunch version taking place that day. It also required students to move after 30 minutes two days a week and did not allow students to eat with everyone three days a week.
“I think Power Hour has potential to be good and helpful, but there are obviously things that need to be changed. I like it, but it is very busy with a lot of people. I feel like having it once a week and then having the office hours after school on Thursday is good,” sophomore Gia Stella said.
Solving the three primary reasons for implementing a Power Hour concept—a need for office hours/out-of-school hour reporting requirements, opportunities for club meetings and an ability for students to eat with everyone—might not be possible with one scenario. Many students have had both positive and negative experiences when it comes to UAHS’ lunch-time prototypes this year, with possibly the bad outweighing the good. With that thought in mind, it was decided in early December that Power Hour is not a fit for UAHS right now.
“After much discussion and observation, we have made the decision to strictly run a split-lunch schedule beginning next week, which will include an afternoon office hour on Thursdays. This will be the base schedule for the remainder of the school year,” Theado wrote in an email to UAHS students and staff.
UAHS is still in the learning process when it comes to finding the best way to approach this year filled with new experiences and struggles.