Checking in on the library at Skyview High Wednesday morning, Principal Deb Black was impressed. Maybe even a little surprised.
"Look at this," she exclaimed. "I mean, wow."
The library was nearly full and it was a solid hour before classes started. Students were seated in groups or alone, talking, studying or working on homework assignments.
One girl sat wrapping her textbooks in brown paper. A boy, headphones in, was reading a paperback.
It was the first day for School District 2's pilot program that pushes back by one hour the start time for Wednesday classes. High school on Wednesday now starts at 9:20 a.m.
The aim is to give teachers time, one hour each week, to meet together to share ideas, discuss teaching techniques and find better ways to address classroom issues. They’ll be able to discuss specific students and, by analyzing data, look for ways to better address their specific needs.
"Our major focus is what can we do to increase student achievement," Black said.
The students, in the meantime, have the option of showing up for school just before classes begin or coming in early to eat, study and socialize.
Some students, however, don’t have a choice.
Busing schedules for the three high schools were too expensive to adjust for just one day. So students who ride the bus still show up to campus just before 8 a.m.
Others, dependent on their parents for rides, show up early so mom and dad can get to work on time.
That was the case for sophomores Cassandra Brun, Victoria Fowler, Holly Johnson and Skylee Stark.
Sitting in the library Wednesday morning, they were talking and working on homework. Johnson had her head down on the table trying to get a little extra sleep.
"I guess it's a good time to study," Fowler said.
"To get my homework done, which I didn't do last night," chimed in Brun.
They admitted if they had their driver licenses and access to a car they'd probably still be at home. But just as quickly, they backed away a little from that sentiment.
They looked around the library, pointing out upperclassmen who were there even though many of them drove. Having an hour before class to get together and study or to just hang out didn't seem to be so bad.
"I guess it's a good time to hang out with your friends 'cause everyone's busy after school," Fowler said. "I like it."
"It's alright," Brun added.
"They should adjust the bus schedule," Johnson said.
Black spent the morning bouncing between the teacher meetings and the student gatherings in the cafeteria and library. She estimated there were between 300 and 400 students who showed up early.
"We assumed most our bus students would be here," she said. "But we truly didn't know what to expect."
She said she was encouraged by what she saw in the classrooms between the teachers. Discussion was good and teachers seemed to be keyed in on student needs.
Reports from the district's other high schools were equally encouraging. Dennis Holmes, principal at Senior High and one of the early innovators of the pilot program, said the schedule worked well at his school.
"It was awesome," he said.
District administrators will monitor the program's progress throughout the year. Teachers report weekly on their meetings and what goals they've set.
At the end of the school year, the administrators will evaluate the program and decide if it will continue.
In the meantime, Black plans next week to rotate a teacher out of each of the groups to be on hand to offer help to students on Wednesday mornings.
"What a great opportunity," she said.