BOE Considers Eliminating 30 Minute Flex Block at Greenwich High School

The BOE had a first read last month of a proposal to eliminate flex time at Greenwich High School, presented by principal Ralph Mayo.

The item is now an action item on this Thursday’s BOE meeting agenda.

The change would maintain the current later morning start time while adding core instructional minutes and dismissing school at 2:55 instead of 3:15pm.

Back in 2015 there were numerous hearings and panel discussions prior to the district moving start time for GHS later by an hour. In June 2016 the BOE voted 5-3 in favor the new school start time. The change in school start time was implemented in the 2017-18 school year.

The change in start time created some issues with athletes traveling to competitions at the later time, and at one point football players competed in the dark.

End of the day timing has been tweaked several times partly in response to that daylight challenge, and flex block is the most recent iteration of what started as opportunity block several years ago under then Superintendent Jill Gildea.

Eliminating Flex Block

By eliminating the end-of-day half hour flex time, two minutes could be added to classes throughout the day.

But before Mr. Mayo could speak, student government leaders defended the flex block. Student body vp Omar Galal credited flex time for making possible the chess club and chess team who were honored at the start of the meeting.

Adrian Ramirez, advisor to the chess players, who in February became the state champions, described that achievement “the chess equivalent of FCIAC.” The chess team had an undefeated record of 11 wins and 0 losses.

Omar said the elimination of flex block would negatively impact many of school’s 160 clubs, which he noted boiled down to one club for every 15 students.

“The vast majority of these clubs depend on the current 30 minute flex block which allows students to engage with their co-curricular interests in person and conveniently be able to take the bus home after engaging with the club,” Omar said.

As for the chess club/team, he said,”Only a couple years ago they were a new club, which grew because they created a space, or rather they were allowed a space at GHS where they could meet up in person during flex block and not have to worry about finding a ride home.”

Omar urged the BOE to consider the impact of removing flex block would have on so many of the smaller clubs at the school.

“I believe that large clubs will not drastically be impacted by the removal of flex blocks because they will have enough committed members to meet before and after school,” Omar said. “However, I am most concerned with smaller clubs – the rest of the 160 clubs that depend on flex like chess club once did.”

Student body president Caleb Kaalund said while eliminating flex block would solve many problems the school faces, it would have downsides including traffic and making it more difficult for students to see teachers for extra help.

“This year, seniors leave the parking lot at 2:45pm if they have no obligations, which naturally leads to heavy traffic around that time. When the remaining students are dismissed at 3:15, this also leads to congestion. Some are concerned with the traffic levels that would be brought by having all of these students dismissed at the same time next year,” Caleb said.

He said many students use flex time to get vital support with their assignments, to clarify concepts, or work through problems. And, he said many students use flex to make up smaller tests or quizzes.

Teachers union president Lil Perrone said there were ‘two sides to every story.’

“GEA feels that flex time is a positive action. It increases our core instructional by 29 hours, and core instructional for all students – not just for students who stay for extra flex time – most have not, so I’m anticipating that to be positive instructional time for all students. And there is still ‘wraparound time’ for all students to get and seek help.”

Schools superintendent Dr. Toni Jones said GHS has had some form of flex time for six years, but many staff at the school supported a change.

Jones said she’d been following the various iterations of flex block for five years, and while the GHS administration had tried many different approaches, challenges persisted.

In a video presentation from GHS principal Ralph Mayo noted that “opportunity block” was originally created in response to an issue that arose after the start and end times at GHS changed to bump the school day forward an hour.

He noted that resulted in athletes missing instructional time at the end of the day to leave for competitions.

Also he said it was also in response to students needing to get home to take care of siblings, go to work or participate in non-GHS athletics and clubs.

Also, the goal of opportunity block was for students to get extra help, participate in GHS clubs and not miss instructional time if they needed to leave early.

Still there have been downsides including some students not using the time efficiently and liability for safety of many students leaving campus.

Acknowledging the concerns about traffic, the ability for clubs to meet, and opportunity for students to receive support, he said, “Maybe the late buses need to be a little earlier – instead of leaving at 5:00 (currently), or at 4:30pm as we have in our proposal, maybe they leave at 4:00, which gives students plenty of time to meet in clubs and have transportation home.”

He added that over the summer, administration would work out “chinks.”

BOE member Karen Hirsh, who said she had been involved with every flex time review committee over six years, agreed it had not worked well.

She reminded the board that the two minutes proposed to be added to each block were actually originally being restored from the original cut to create flex time.

Mr. Mayo said either way, flex time does count as state requirements for instructional time.

Hirsh urged the administration to study impacts to the bus schedule, especially the late bus schedule.

Mayo said usually late buses are gone by the time athletic practices have concluded and athletes rarely use the late bus.

“They are picked up by their parents or drive home. I rarely see athletes get on the late bus.”

BOE member Laura Kostin asked about accommodating students who need extra help or time to make up assessments.

Mayo said they could still be accommodated after school or during the school day in an academic learning center.

School buses queue around 3:15pm outside Greenwich High School.May 13, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

“Teachers aren’t going anywhere,” Mayo said, adding that students can still stay after school and then take a late bus home. “Students (will be) leaving at 2:55pm, not teachers.”

“I think by moving the late bus time, there is less time they’re going to be waiting and they will have a new front entrance where they can wait comfortably,” he added.

BOE chair Karen Kowalski asked how late teachers are contractually required to stay.

Mayo explained there was a ’50-minute wraparound time,” which can be split up before and after school. “We’d have to talk about that.”

Kowalski said she had not thought about the clubs that utilize flex time until Omar and Caleb brought it up.

She said her concern was that while late buses were available to all students, there were fewer late buses, and it did take longer for students to get home.

Mr. Mayo said there were 4 late buses and they go to every part of town.

“If we thought there would be a major problem, there is the possibility of adding a fifth bus, but that adds money to the budget,” Mayo said.

He said students could also make use of video or Google Meets for club meetings.

“Maybe we can change Advisor Base a little bit so clubs can meet through Advisor Base,” Mayo added. “Clubs right now meet before school and at night.”

Ms Hirsh noted that every club has an advisor and initially there was a concern that teachers who are club advisors needed to be in their classrooms at the same time to offer extra help or support.

“While some clubs meet during flex time, there are a ton of clubs that don’t,” she said. “If students are allowed to meet through Google Meets it would probably provide more of an opportunity for them to participate in them.”

Mayo said he would consult Karen Foster, director of Student Activities.

Kathleen Stowe agreed with Caleb that the larger clubs would have an easier time adapting to the loss of flex block, but for athletes, flex time was their only free time to meet in a club.

“I like the idea of the morning, but that’s a question of equity because not everyone can get there in theory by 8:00,” she said.

Mayo noted that during Covid clubs were able to meet online and the number of clubs proliferated.

BOE member Wendy Vizzo Walsh said she was concerned that given learning loss during Covid, students have adequate opportunities for extra help if flex time is eliminated.

“That’s not as big an issue as clubs,” Mayo said. “Teachers have to stay 20 or 30 minutes after school. Kids will have access to their teachers regardless.”

Cody Kittle asked about the responses of teachers when surveyed about the flex proposal.

A total of 225 teachers responded. Of those 202 were in favor and 23 opposed.

Kittle asked why some teachers opposed the proposal.

“For those 23 teachers, they like to give extra help during flex time. that’s the bottom line for those teachers,” Mayo said. “They’ll still be able to give extra help.”

Ms Kowalski talked about the significance of adding back the two minutes to each class block.

“Two minutes can turn into a lot in teaching time, and it gives students immediate time to ask questions on an assignment as opposed for students to make the extra effort to track down the teacher. They can ask the question in real time when they’re working on a subject.”

The video on the rational for changing flex time can be viewed here.

In the video presentation, Mayo said that the proposal stemmed back to February when Dr. Jones asked his team to analyze the number of hours of instruction at GHS to see if it would be possible to continue to start school at 8:30am, but somehow end earlier than 3:15pm.

He said the state requirement was that all districts meet for 180 days and/or 900 hours of instruction to be considered a full school year, and that  currently GHS meets for 1,040 hours, which is above state requirements.

Of these hours, 953 are core instructional hours

This proposal has 982 hours of course instruction, still above the 900 hour requirement from the State of Connecticut.

The 5-1/2 minute video presentation highlights some of the staff survey results, including concerns that felt flex time was a liability in terms of school safety as large numbers of students leave campus and some students have struggled with using flex time effectively.

Another highlight was that in addition to almost 1,000 parents having requested their child be released from flex to care for a sibling, attend work or internship or non-GHS sport or community service over the past two years, each day an average of 56 additional students are excused from Flex block by their parents.


Current and proposed day schedule. With the proposed elimination of flex block, 2 minutes are added to each block. Lunch block remains unchanged at 55 minutes. After the proposed schedule, school would end at 2:55pm instead of 3:15pm.


Mayo said late buses would still be offered on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

He explained that by ending at 2:55pm instead of 3:15 will eliminate the need for any student athlete to leave early for practices and offer more daylight for practices.

Student athletes instructional time would increase by not requiring as many early dismissals for the majority of away or home games, and allow Intramural recreational sports to begin right after school, giving all students a chance to access that program.

See also:

BOE Approves Gildea’s Start/End Time Creative Solution for GHS: The “Opportunity Block” May 2018

Gildea: No discussions about returning to the old school start time. We’re seeking a logistics solution. April 2018

At GHS, the “Student Policy Initiative” Sees Abundant Potential in Opportunity Block 2019

Greenwich Schools Still Grapple with Impacts of School Start Time Change 2017

PHOTOS: Day One with 8:30am Start at Greenwich High School, the Usual Traffic Jam  2017

Greenwich Board of Ed Endorse Later School Start Time, Ask Bus Consultant for a Little More Study June 2016

Previous school start time stories on GFP:

GHS Cardinal Stadium Lighting Upgrades and Deed Restrictions Leave Greenwich Hamstrung. Again.

Greenwich Board of Ed Votes 5-3 in Favor of Implementing School Start Change for Fall 2017 

Superintendent’s School Start Time Recs: I Will Not Be Here. Someone Else Will Have to Do It… I Have Hope

Greenwich Schools Start Time Change. Skeptics Vs Advocates. Dirty Politics?

GHS Freshman is Strong Voice at First School Start Time Input Session

Joe Siciliano: Change in School Start Time Would Impact Use of Fields by Parks & Rec, Travel Teams and Non-School Groups

Tesei to Board of Ed: Be Bold on School Start Time Change

Later Start Start Time Advocates Press Board of Ed to Give SST Committee a Mandate

If Start Time Science is Acknowledged, Does Delay Til 2017 Leave District Legally Vulnerable?

Board of Education Candidate Gaetane Francis on Achievement Gap, School Start Time and Digital Learning

BOE’s Sherr: Start Time Steering Committee Members Need to Be Honest Brokers

School Start Time Forum: Parents Decry Scare Tactics, Warn Against Putting Budget over Teen Health

Later School Start Times Jumpstart Student Achievement

GHS Student Gov Leader Speaks out on Delayed Start Time at GHS

Greenwich Schools Chief on Delayed GHS Start Time: “Very Aggressive” Timeline

Petition Launch and Delayed School Start Time Rally at Town Hall, Set for Thursday 7pm

Delayed GHS Start Time? Sleep Deprived-Students Nap While They Wait.

2 rows of school busesatGHS