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Hour-long lunch in some Shelby County schools teach students time management

Students at Oak Mountain High School get an hour for lunch in what's called "Soar 60." -- Photo by Wendell Edwards

Hannah Kelley doesn't have a lot of free time. The Oak Mountain High School junior is a varsity cheerleader, class president and a member of two clubs.

"It gets hectic sometimes," she said.

That's why on this day she is sitting in a classroom working on an Algebra II assignment. It's how she spends most of her hour-long lunch. Administrators extended lunch time to help out students.

"I really like it," Kelley said. "It also gives me a chance to do my homework, so I don't have to do it after school."

The hour-long lunch is in its third year at Oak Mountain. It's called "Soar 60," named in part after the number of minutes in an hour and the school's mascot.

Oak Mountain High School Principal Dr. Kristi Sayers said the extended lunch period was a product of conflict resolution. She said many students were struggling trying to get to school early before classes started for tutoring help. Other students had to choose between which club to join, since most of them held meetings at the same time after school.

"What we noticed was really a decline in our club and organization participation," Dr. Sayers said. "Now students can participate in multiple clubs."

Sayers said "Soar-60" gives students several options. In additional to clubs being able to meet, students can study for tests, visit with teachers, finish homework, get tutoring help, retake a test and prepare even more for afternoon classes and yes -- eat lunch.

Freshman Wilder Evers says he spends most days in the library studying his for AP World History which he has after lunch.

"I like it because I can build some bond with my teachers and also study for future classes," she said. "Hence, why I'm always in the library."

"Soar-60" seems to be working. Club participation is up 53-percent from three years ago, Dr. Sayers said. But she says the real lesson is in students learning to manage their own time.

"We have a schedule and students are supposed to create that schedule in terms of time management," she said. "'What is it I need to accomplish this week?'"

Kelley says the flexibility is the best part for her.

"I eat and meet at the same time," she said. "I like it. We can eat anywhere in the building and we don't all have to eat in the lunch room."

It's an extended lunch period designed to give students more time beyond just eating.

Two other Shelby County Schools also have hour-long lunch periods. At Helena High School is called "Pack-60" and at Chelsea High School is called "Halftime."

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