Planning period problems

District begins cutting high school teacher planning time starting next school year.


Keira Reilly

Science teacher Meghan McGowan works on grading final exams during her planning period. Next year, teachers will have less time to plan.

In order to provide more supervision and support in the buildings, high school teacher planning time will be cut starting next year.

Teachers use their planning time to do tasks like lesson planning, grading, making copies, attending meetings, and much more.

FACS teacher Evalyn Petty says her planning period is full of numerous tasks 

“I wash dishes, do laundry, clean the kitchens and my classrooms, sweep and mop the floor, assess students’ needs, go to IEP, make accommodations and modifications to curriculum, plan grocery lists and go grocery shopping, enter grades, write tests, and update lessons,” Petty said.

Science teacher Meghan McGowan says that she already spends hours at home doing school work, and doesn’t know what she’s going to do with even less given plan time at school.

“Currently, I’m not married and don’t have kids, you would think I have a lot of time outside of school. But I’m in grad school, run a youth group,  and see family and friends. I probably spend 8-10 hours a week outside of school working on school work such as lesson plans, grades, emails and that’s with the plan time I currently have. When you take away 2 hours away a week, I’ll have to spend 10-12 hours outside of school, and that’s a whole day and I don’t have it. What’s likely to happen is less work will get done. It will just mean fewer labs and more independent work during class so I can grade during class,” said McGowan.

While science teachers will have to cut hands-on experiences such as labs, other teachers will have to cut other things important to them. Currently, English teacher Melissa Gebhard sends out weekly newsletters for her classes, but she doesn’t know if she will be able to continue to create and send those out

“I am concerned. I usually use every bit of my plan and bring work home with me and work at home in the evenings and weekends. I’ve been grading from my kids’ soccer games. The loss of 2 hours is concerning, I’m concerned about communication. Last night, I was putting together posts to share work. I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut my newsletters, and that’s important to parents. I don’t want to cut celebrating students, all those extra things like celebrating and having interventions with kids that improve the overall experience I’m afraid those will have to get cut,” said Gebhard.

Art teacher, Eric Ludlow is also worried about cutting things he enjoys–art shows.

“There’s stuff that won’t get done, like as many shows. We do more art shows than any other school in St. Louis and we won’t be able to do it next year. Especially in the spring, March and April it’s a ton of work. People don’t realize how much work it is,” Ludlow said.

Sophomore Daria Tsukhai, said she feels for her teachers, knowing they are getting their plan time shortened but still expected to do the same amount and quality of work.

“I think it’s really unfair. Teachers already do so much already and planning lessons is hard. They do so much already and having to do more outside will cause bad work/life balance and could cause our lessons to be less effective,” Tsukhai said.

Since she teaches culinary classes, Petty said part of her planning time is used for grocery shopping, which will be harder to squeeze in next year. 

“I guess the district wants me to go grocery shopping with my two kids at night, since they won’t allow me to use Instacart,” Petty said.

Gebhard, along with many other teachers, sees the needs but is still confused about the why behind the decision. 

“I think that the messaging has been unclear. Some people think it’s to make it equal plan time with elementary and middle school. Others say it’s because we’re short-staffed, and students needs are increasing and safety is a concern. While those are valid, there are other solutions than taking away from teachers that are already struggling,” she said.

Petty also agrees that there is miscommunication with this new decision. 

“I know what they’re saying and I understand it. It’s to help kids and that’s why we became teachers. I feel like there’s another reason we’re not being told,” she said.

There is even talk of teachers leaving the profession to have a better work and life balance. 

“I’ll be honest. I have a Chem degree and I looked at getting a job not in teaching because of not having to take work home with me,I think that teachers have very markable skills and I can forsee a situation where more teachers retire earlier and get a new job or more teachers leave teaching earlier as a result as this decision and that’s not whats best for students. What’s best for students is happy teachers and teachers that love what they do and I think there will be fewer of those teachers next year,” McGowan said.